Child friendly spaces impact across five humanitarian settings: a meta-analysis

Date Published: May 8, 2019 Author: Sabrina Hermosilla, Janna Metzler, Kevin Savage, Miriam Musa and Alastair Ager

While Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) has become a standard approach to

address the protection and psychosocial needs of children in humanitarian

crises, oftentimes the ways in which humanitarian actors make use of this

intervention do not fully adapt critical continuous, context-specific analysis.

Recent broader review of the evidence base for humanitarian interventions addressing the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of displaced populations…emphasizing the need for more rigorous, mixed methods research on the effectiveness of widely-used, group-based psychosocial interventions, particularly those aimed at children and adolescents

Having identified that little robust evidence exists related to programmatic

outcomes and impacts of CFS in humanitarian emergencies, a team of

researchers from Columbia University and practitioners from World Vision,

in collaboration with Save the Children, UNICEF, and other members of the

UN GPC Child Protection Working Group, sought to contribute to this

evidence base the first robust estimate of the general impact of CFS as a

humanitarian intervention. Their findings – based on data collection and

analyses in five CFS studies: Ethiopia, Uganda, Iraq, Jordan, and Nepal – are

further elaborated in an article titled, “Child friendly spaces impact across

five humanitarian settings: a meta-analysis,” published by BMC Public Health

in May 2019. They conclude that CFS can effectively address protection

risks and threats to psychosocial wellbeing and support the developmental

assets particularly among younger children, however, there remains a need

for implementors to strengthen the mobilization of community resources

to enhance the impact of older children. This can be achieved by

strengthening contextual adaptation and quality control and monitoring


Impacts with older children, and on mobilization of community resources to support children, are notably weak, suggesting the need to consider alternative programming approaches if gains in these areas are to be secured.

With a view to continuous, context-specific protection analysis, this study

highlights the need to question assumptions on the usefulness of

interventions or other activities; start with the experience of the affected

population and identify what capacities people can bring to bear to reduce

threat, including community-based solutions that may already exist; and

contextualize the continuous analysis of risk patterns identified based on

the cultural environment to inform strategy development, program design,

implementation, and M&E.