IOM started its Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) programme in South Sudan in 2014 as part of its comprehensive response to humanitarian needs of crisis-affected populations in the country. Currently, IOM’s MHPSS programme provides direct services to displaced and host communities in Unity, Upper Nile and Western Bahr el-Ghazal through 13 “Recreational and Counselling Centres”. These are located in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, the Protection of Civilian (PoC) site in Malakal, and collective sites (Hai Masna) or in host communities in Wau town (Jebel Kheir), Rubkona town (Yoanyang) and Malakal town (Assosa and Malakia). Furthermore, mobile services are run weekly in the greater Wau area to locations such as Baggari, Bazia and Farajallah jointly with the Migration Health Unit (MHU). IOM’s MHPSS interventions in South Sudan are highly participatory and community-based, aiming at the enhancement of coping mechanisms to deal with experiences of conflict and displacement.
Based on the IOM Manual on Community-Based Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Displacement and Emergencies, the unit offers focused non-specialized psychosocial services such as counselling and support groups as well as community and family support such as socio-relational and cultural, sports and play activities, creative activities, non-formal learning and integrated livelihood support. The latter is done through a peer-to-peer learning approach covering a wide range of activities such as embroidery, beads’ making, hand sewing of clothes, fish nets’ weaving, local soap making, production of clay pots, and bread baking. Thus, the MHPSS programme enables the empowerment and self-reliance of the displaced and host communities through the rebuilding of communal traditional support structures and the facilitation of culturally appropriate activities aiming at the improvement of the psychosocial well-being. It reaches approximately 300,000 individuals per year with its activities.
IOM’s MHPSS activities are mainstreamed into primary healthcare services. Numerous Recreational and Counselling Centres are situated on the premises of the health clinics operated by IOM’s MHU allowing a fast referral from and to the MHPSS team. Inclusive care is offered to TB and HIV patients and awareness-raising activities are conducted aiming at the reduction of stigma and discrimination towards the latter and their families. Both community-based awareness-raising as well as capacity building for community leadership structures and humanitarian actors represent important components of the programme.
Since 2017, IOM applies an integrative social work approach in Wau by offering on-the-job training to social workers of the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Welfare (MoGCSW). The training includes case management and basic psychosocial support skills. The team works predominantly in host communities and in areas of return such as Bussere.
Since end of 2019, IOM MHPSS furthermore works with youth gang members and youth at risk in a Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) project in collaboration with the Transition and Recovery Unit (TRU) and the Protection and Inclusion unit. In the Abyei Administrative Area, where MHPSS services are still scarce, the unit is setting up an MHPSS programme linked to TRU’s peacebuilding activities. The unit aims to strengthen its work with regard to protection-related aspects, transforming gender norms and interventions for GBV survivors by developing integrated projects. These include fostering disability inclusion or offering focused non-specialised interventions for adolescent pregnant girls.
IOM chairs the MHPSS Technical Working Group (TWG) in South Sudan at national level and in the above mentioned three states, which aims at providing technical support to and coordination of MHPSS actors. The MHPSS TWG serves as a forum for exchange and learning and is responsible for the coordination of MHPSS activities, and the production of tools and guidance notes relevant for the South Sudan context, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH). Furthermore, it ensures the mainstreaming of MHPSS into relevant clusters based on recommendations of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings.