Coronavirus – Middle East and North Africa: Mental Health and Psychosocial Response during COVID-19 Outbreak

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Key highlights from January to April 2020 (Syria situation)

Across the MENA region, UNHCR is receiving alarming reports of increasing mental health issues among the forcibly displaced. Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) activities are being stepped up by UNHCR and partners to address this new dangerous trend.

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In Lebanon, in April, multiple incidents of suicide were reported among refugees. There was a spike in instances of threats to self-harm and harm to others while family disputes, domestic violence, and divorce cases have increased. Family members and children are those primarily at risk of domestic violence, in particular women and girls. Unable to pay rent and facing evictions, refugees are forced to share sub-standard accommodation, further increasing the risk of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV).

In Iraq, the most common protection risks reported by internally displaced persons (IDPs) in June included psychological trauma, stress and anxiety . In Tunisia, UNHCR’s partner reported an increase in individuals with mental health challenges such as insomnia, acute anxiety, and depression.

In Israel, UNHCR witnessed an increase of hospital admissions due to severe psychological distress, as well as suicide attempts or self-harm. One case of suicide of a refugee was reported in May. MHPSS partners have alerted that suicidal behaviour could be a new trend as the COVID-19 crisis evolves.

In Libya and Yemen, the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the difficulties of already weak national health systems, affected by conflicts as well as by the shortage of qualified MHPSS staff. Considering the context and the situation experienced by UNHCR persons of concern in Libya, while in transit, in detention centres, and after situations of distress at sea, the needs for MHPSS are high.

In Jordan, UNHCR’s partner on MHPSS reported a significant rise in consultations, by over 50 per cent, in April. According to the latest Multi-sectoral Rapid Needs Assessment jointly conducted by WFP, UNICEF, and UNHCR in Jordan, 41 per cent of all respondents witnessed a negative impact on their children’s well-being due to the COVID-19 crisis and curfew.

In Egypt, frontline psychosocial workers are providing 24/7 online support to refugees as a major increase in psychosocial distress has been identified.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

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