Humanitarian agencies plead for better mental health services

By AT editor - 4 October 2019 at 7:59 pm
Humanitarian agencies plead for better mental health services

There is nowhere near enough mental health support for people in low- and middle-income countries who are caught in conflict and humanitarian crisis, according to leaders of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

In those countries, many of them on the African continent, there are on average just two mental health professionals for every 100,000 people, even as their exposure to trauma and crisis is higher than in better-equipped nations.

“People living in conflict-affected areas are three times more likely than the general population to suffer from conditions such as depression and anxiety, to post-traumatic stress disorder,” the aid agencies said in a statement issued Friday.

The Red Cross agencies say this can be similarly true for other humanitarian crises like disasters, and in health emergencies. The conditions create hidden wounds with far-reaching and potentially long-term impacts.

“Supporting people’s mental health and psychosocial support can be lifesaving in times of disasters, war and violence, just as much as stemming the bleeding from a deep wound or having clean water,” said ICRC director general Yves Daccord. “Hidden wounds are no less dangerous to a person’s well-being and ability to thrive during crisis.”

The ICRC and IFRC are calling for increased recognition of the invisible suffering and its consequences, and greater investment to address it, especially for local resources in affected communities.

The statement comes ahead of a conference hosted by the Netherlands next week, meant to raise awareness and boost access to mental health aid as part of humanitarian response.

Image: UNMISS file

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