Iraq has witnessed multiple waves of conflict and violence that has greatly affected millions of Iraqis for a prolonged period of time. For many individuals, this has led to a multitude of stressors and challenges that are often difficult to cope with.
The IOM Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) programme aims to improve the psychological and social wellbeing and strengthen the overall resilience of individuals affected by conflict. Implemented through different levels of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s (IASC) pyramid of intervention, IOM implements a range of MHPSS activities that supports internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees, and host communities to regain a sense of safety and human security, increase self and community efficacy, encourage the creation or reactivation of social networks, and develop tools for affected communities to deal with the past and regain hope in the future. Under a larger community stabilization objective, the MHPSS programme is implemented in close collaboration with other social cohesion and protection activities
All IOM MHPSS services were carried out in a manner consistent with the ‘do no harm’ principle outlined in the Sphere project, WHO’s definition of mental health, and the IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services in Emergency Settings. Beneficiaries receive comprehensive services adapted to their needs, including:
- Specialized services
- Focused non-specialized services
- Community and family support
- Social considerations in basic services
IOM MHPSS activities reached 15,990 new beneficiaries and provided 91,226 services between July 2019 and September 2020. IOM implemented 72,330 of these directly and 18,896 through its implementing partners, which are local civil society organisations (CSOs).
COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Services Delivery
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only impacted the well-being of individuals on psychological and social levels, but also had profound effect on MHPSS services and their delivery to beneficiaries.
Precautionary measure such as physical distancing and limitation of movement presented an additional challenge to the delivery of MHPSS services in rather underprivileged and underserviced areas.
Psychological reactions to pandemics vary from normal stress reactions that include fear, anger, sadness and frustration to anxiety, depression and trauma related symptoms. Worry is not confined to an individual’s sense of safety but also to family members and loved one which further complicates the situation.
In these times, people may have growing concerns on adequate access to services, maintaining their jobs and livelihoods, worries for the future and the concerns related to the nature of the diseases itself; the modes of transmission of infection, absence of a vaccine, physical distancing and related stigma. The imposed restriction on curfew hours in many parts of the country may have led to increased family tensions on many levels supported by the fact that increased rates of domestic violence have been reported in different parts of the world.
Taking the above into account and with MHPSS being a key priority in crisis situations and especially important among vulnerable groups as those internally displaced, the IOM MHPSS activities have been adapted to comply with local governments’ instructions and public health best practices.