Remarks by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, High Level Event on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, Humanitarian Week


New York, 9 December 2020 (Virtual)

As prepared for delivery

Thank you, Group of Friends on Mental Health and Well-being in New York, for organizing this event. Thank you, Sigrid for continuing being so passionate about this issue.

This has been a rather tough year for all of us. So, imagine what it must be like for people who are already trapped in rather stressful situations. Specially for women, girls, older people and people with disabilities, who are already vulnerable to shocks.

I spoke to so many families this year in Syria, Yemen and recently in Burkina Faso. Many of them have lost their loved ones to conflict. Many of them don’t know how they will feed their children. You can hear and feel the trauma in their voices.

COVID-19 has made people even more fearful. All our assessments underline the need for mental health and psychosocial support – from the very young to the very old.

In north-western Syria, the number of new patients in and around Idleb, who received mental health consultations in April and May was double that of the same time period last year.

The latest assessments in Jordan show that 41 per cent of all respondents witnessed a negative impact on their children's well-being due to the COVID-19 crisis and curfew.

We don’t realise that often the deepest wounds during a crisis are not visible. A person’s mental wellbeing is critical for recovery.

We have the Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings developed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee that is available in 16 languages and is a gold standard reference on the know-how. We also now have specific mental health and psychosocial support resources for the Covid-19 response in even more languages.

They can be used to build minimum service packages, the essential, affordable packages of health which will enable us to deal with this problem better.

In 2020, we stepped up efforts to provide mental health and psychosocial services for all the people we serve. But our efforts have not been able to keep up with the tremendous and increasing needs.

Through today’s Call to Action we want to commit ourselves, and ask our partners to join us, to collectively increase our efforts to provide mental health and psychosocial support across all sectors in our activities. We urge our donors to invest in improving our capacity to provide these services. Without mental well-being there can be no recovery. If there is no recovery, there is no future.

Thank you,


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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