Egypt + 5 more

Gaps in mental health and psychosocial support programming affecting already vulnerable population groups in the Middle East

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Introduction

Already prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 10-20% of children and young people worldwide experienced mental health conditions, with 1 in 4 children estimated to be living with a parent who is struggling with a mental health disorder. Additionally, 420 million children live in conflict zones, with an estimated 56 million children requiring MHPSS interventions. The WHO estimates that 10%-20% of the population may struggle with moderate forms of mental health conditions, which in turn impacts the society’s ability to function.

The Middle East region encompasses a worryingly high prevalence of mental health conditions due to years of conflict, violence, economic vulnerability and instability. Recent surveys have revealed that the prevalence of mental illness ranges from 15.6% to 35.5% of the region’s population with depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) being particularly common. This mental health crisis has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that weighed on already vulnerable populations’ mental wellbeing. Meanwhile, lack of awareness, limited mental health services, and stigmatization are some factors that prevent patients from seeking help.

The Inter‐Agency Standing Committee (IASC)’s intervention pyramid for MHPSS in emergencies promotes the need for complementary support systems that meet the needs of different groups in emergencies. In addition to (1) the provision of specialized clinical services, the pyramid also includes (2) focused non‐ specialized psychosocial support, (3) strengthening the capacity of individuals, families and communities to support themselves, and (4) embedding social and psychological considerations into the way basic needs and security are delivered or established.

The No Lost Generation’s (NLG)’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Taskforce consisting of members from several organizations was set up to contribute to an improved MHPSS response in 6 countries including Iraq,
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Egypt. In the summer of 2021, the taskforce commissioned a survey to examine the status of MHPSS programming in the region, identify gaps in the sector, and offer strategy and policy recommendations based on the surveyed MHPSS providers’ first-hand experience. Additionally, the taskforce wanted to understand the impact of COVID-19 on the ability of these organizations to carry out their MHPSS programs while drawing on lessons learned from the ongoing pandemic.