• Nabie Loyce | Media and Communications Assistant

Yei, South Sudan – When fighting erupted in Yei, one of South Sudan’s larger towns in Central Equatoria State, in 2016, thousands of people fled to neighbouring countries. Judith* and her family were among those who sought safety in neighbouring Uganda.

"The conflict caused immense destruction in our area. We lost friends, property, and all our personal belongings. Leaving the country was our only option. We managed to cross the border into Uganda and stayed in a refugee camp," Judith recalls.

In the camp, Judith had one wish for her hometown to become peaceful again so that her family could return home and rebuild their lives.

"Life outside your home and country is never easy. In Yei, we farmed and were able to provide for our children. But in the camp, we were completely dependent on humanitarian assistance. It was a situation I never thought I’d find myself in, and it greatly affected my mental health. We endured this for 5 long years.”

In 2020, peace and stability returned to Yei and Judith decided to gather her family and head back. Unfortunately, one year after returning, Judith’s mother fell ill and died having a devastating impact on Judith’s mental health.

"When she became sick, I worried about how I would take care of her because I didn’t have any money and couldn’t give her proper treatment. It weighed heavily on me. I started experiencing sleepless nights, nightmares, loss of appetite, headaches, physical pain, memory loss, and mood changes. When my mother died, I became so overwhelmed, I couldn’t even look after my own children. There were times where I found myself walking around feeling completely confused and uncertain about myself. It felt like I had lost touch with reality.”

Women attend dialogue sessions to share experiences and suggest solutions to Gender Based Violence cases in Yei. This photo is for illustrative purposes. Photo: IOM/Nabie Loyce

One day, Judith attended an International Organization for Migration (IOM) community awareness session and learned about support for people facing mental health issues. With the support of IOM Mental Health and Psycho-Social support (MHPSS) team, Judith was diagnosed with a mental health condition and was prescribed medication and counselling by IOM staff. In total she has received eight counselling sessions, and the team conducts follow-up visits to her home to monitor her recovery.

IOM MHPSS support team provide services including individual and group counseling sessions, peer support groups, cultural and recreational activities (sport and art activities) and the provision of psychological first aid (PFA). PFA includes referral of severe psychiatric cases to the general hospital and linkages to other available services as per needs of beneficiaries. Over 22,000 people have been supported over the last year.

"I am happy that I received information about the help I could get, before things deteriorated much further. Today, I can now take care of my children”.

IOM Social worker engages participants during community dialogue sessions. Photo: IOM/Nabie Loyce

Today, Judith has found work at a local quarry and attends IOM’s mental health and psychosocial women’s support group, where she shares her experiences and supports other women facing mental health challenges.

During the community dialogue sessions, men and women come together to share their experiences and ideas of living in a GBV free community. Photo: IOM/Nabie Loyce

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) offers Mental Health Psychosocial Support Services (MHPSS) in Yei as part of the "Locally Driven Solutions for Social Cohesion and Promoting Early Recovery in the Country’s Former Breadbasket" programme. This initiative is implemented in Central Equatoria State by a consortium led by IOM, including the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Finnish Church Aid (FCA), Whitaker Peace and Development Initiative (WPDI), The Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), and Support for Peace and Education Development (SPEDP


*This name has been changed for confidentiality purposes

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions
SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals