Needs Assessment: Integrating MHPSS and Livelihood Support in Iraq - Dohuk, Kirkuk, Ninewa and Salah Al-Din

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The experiences that persons living in conflict-affected countries endure, including severe hardship and violence, “adversely affect the mind, body, and spirit, and diminish the capacity of individuals and communities to take full advantage of economic empowerment opportunities.”

Recognizing this, some humanitarian and development actors have “begun to combine psychosocial support with livelihood support” in conflict-affected countries, which have shown a “promising indication that this combination can enhance project outcomes.”1 Generally speaking, however, few livelihood programmes combine livelihood support with MHPSS in emergency or development settings to date.
Presently, most livelihood projects are not “designed with mental health or psychosocial well-being impacts in mind, and/or are not evaluated on these dimensions.”

The needs assessment presented here was conducted with the intention to guide the merging of MHPSS and livelihood support more consistently, especially in protracted contexts. MHPSS and livelihood integration professionals note that for livelihoods to be truly sustainable, such projects cannot be disconnected from MHPSS. Combining the two is a significant opportunity to strengthen human development and improve self-efficacy, while ensuring that programme participants can take full advantage of the offered livelihood opportunity.

Programmes that combine psychosocial and livelihood support enhance well-being “in ways that neither intervention could have achieved on its own,” and to ensure successful economic activities, psychosocial improvements are required. Research shows that integrating psychosocial approaches into livelihood programmes can significantly increase the impact of such programming.4 This more significant effect is possible because adapting and integrating an MHPSS approach ensures that livelihood interventions “are grounded in the reality of the affected communities’ experiences and are implemented in ways which enable people to regain a level of control and dignity,”5 while being able to positively manage daily stressors and build resilience.


The MHPSS and livelihood support integration needs assessment was conducted in August 2020 to evaluate what kind of integrated MHPSS and livelihood support initiatives are most desirable and relevant in select locations. The assessment took place in Dohuk (Qadiya and Sumel camps), Kirkuk (Wahed Huzeiran neighbourhood), Ninewa (Tel Afar City, Ay-Ayadiyah, Mosul City), Hassan Sham camps (U3) and Salah Al-Din (Shirqat district). In addition, the assessment intended to gain direct insight into the community’s perceptions of integrated programming, to understand whether or not there is interest in such programming. The assessment findings led to the subsequent design of integrated MHPSS and livelihood activities.
These activities are relevant to the Iraqi context, are scalable and add value to the already present response programming.


A theory of change (ToC) is expected when implementing integrated MHPSS and livelihood support programming. The ToC holds that integrated programming improves the resilience of the affected population and allows for considering all needs of participants, including the physical, material and emotional needs. Integrated support services strive to ensure mental health support and livelihood opportunities for affected persons in Iraq, especially those lacking fundamental access to livelihoods and MHPSS. The ToC holds that integrated programming will improve their resilience and well-being, enabling them to successfully engage in their livelihood projects and maintain them. Through integrated programming, participants can realize their capabilities, manage the “normal stresses of life,” contribute to their community while also supporting families with a stable income, purpose and healthy emotional well-being.

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