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In locked-down Gaza: PRCS Rehabilitation Programme Uses Social Media to Stay in Touch with Children

(Gaza – 21/4/2020):  As soon as the lockdown was ordered in the Gaza Strip, the Society’s Rehabilitation Department created Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups targeting children, both with and without disabilities, as well as their parents, in order to monitor their needs as the lockdown continues.

 Hence, information and exercises covering all aspects of the rehabilitation process including education, training, therapy, guidance and behavior management were communicated to parents. Information was also provided on the risks posed by the lockdown on children with disabilities as well as on the spread and prevention of COVID-19. Publications and information issued by PRCS and WHO were promoted while extracurricular activities were provided to children to develop their skills and fill their time with meaningful activities.

The 10 WhatsApp groups and 2 Facebook pages targeted 238 children with disabilities, 191 of their non-disabled peers and 290 parents. All participating children are enrolled in PRCS rehabilitation programs and services through schools, kindergartens, the Open Studio, programs for children with intellectual disabilities, extracurricular activities, vocational skills’ development programs and adult education programs.

According to Hassan Nassar, the head of the Society’s Rehabilitation Programme in the Gaza Strip, “this initiative is part of efforts made by the Programme to ensure that educational activities continue despite the pandemic and with children sheltering at home. It is supervised by around 100 specialists from the Society’s Rehabilitation Center. They provide written and visual content offering advice and guidance on how to avoid being exposed to the virus as well as specialized material aimed at increasing children’s positive energy at home".

He also said: "There are a number of videos posted on the group targeting the students with hearing impaired disability. Some of these videos give directions about how to maintain the hearing aids and change their batteries".

He added: "Some groups were created jointly with the Rehabilitation Programme in the West Bank: through them, tips are provided on a daily basis to parents on how to deal with children during the long lockdown. Parents have been responding positively and massively to our messages”.

Khaled Al Akkad is an 8-year old boy with a mental disability who is enrolled in the Rehabilitation Program. His mother spoke about the positive impact of this initiative: “We learn a lot from these WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages which help connect teachers and educators with children. For example, we learned how to prevent the spread of the virus and protect ourselves, including through measures such as washing our hands and avoiding crowded spaces".

She concluded: "We are also now better informed about how to help our children through isolation and lockdown. Moreover, home-based rehabilitation activities unleashed my son’s positive energy and he interacted greatly with concentration and drawing games and videos”.