BMZ: focusing on mental health and psychosocial support
A Good Practice which aim to foster the psychosocial wellbeing of people and their communities, to reduce stress and to enhance resilience of conflict-affected populations.
Dr. Silvia Morgenroth, head of Division 221, tackling the root causes of displacement, Partnership for Prospects of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
Introduction to the project
Worldwide, with a focus on the Middle East
2014 – present
Forced displacement in the context of violent conflicts has not only a devastating impact on a country's infrastructure, security and economic development, but also on the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of the people affected. During crises, displaced people and host communities can be exposed to extreme psychological distress, traumatic experiences including loss, violence and hopelessness. At a collective level, families and social networks, trust in society and state structures may be destroyed.
By making mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) a key element of its projects in contexts of forced displacement, BMZ and its partner organizations aim to foster the psychosocial wellbeing of people and their communities, to reduce stress and to enhance resilience of conflict-affected populations.
MHPSS has become an integral part of several of BMZs funding mechanisms. BMZ strongly increased its engagement in the field with the start of the Special Initiative Forced Displacement in 2014. Currently, more than 50 projects that focus exclusively on MHPSS or have MHPSS components with a budget of EUR 315 Mio are funded by the Special Initiative alone. Additionally, Transitional Development Assistance (TDA) also has a strong MHPSS focus. In the Middle East alone, 16 projects with a volume of 287 million euros are being implemented.
- Partner countries
- Civil society
- UN-agencies, e.g. UNICEF and UNHCR
Main activities of the Good Practice
BMZ supports a long-term, holistic, community-oriented and structure-forming approach towards MHPSS. Projects focus on the activation of people’s and communities’ resources and coping strategies to strengthen resilience and psychosocial wellbeing. Low-threshold psychosocial support services, public information campaigns (psychoeducation), safe spaces for women and children, or the provision of life skills are often the first steps towards counteracting stress and mobilizing resources. Clinical treatment services are provided for those with pre-existing illnesses and referral pathways are being established. In addition to individual and collective healing, the sustainable mainstreaming of psychosocial support measures and standards in public institutions such as schools, universities and health centres is a priority.
- Fostering the quality of psychosocial support interventions through quality guidelines, capacity development, conference, and sharing of good practices.
- Psychosocial support at schools and sensitization of teachers, e.g. in cooperation with UNICEF and through Sports for Development.
- Sensitizing Employers of Cash for Work programmes for the psychosocial needs and resources of refugees.
- Establishing staff care mechanisms to provide support towards staff implementing psychosocial measures.
Challenges and how they were overcome
Coordination: With MHPSS being an issue that touches on such diverse sectors as education, health, and protection, coordination in the field is a particular challenge. BMZ strongly invests in supporting networks and coordination mechanisms by funding conferences for exchange, working in a participatory manner, mapping existing services and taking time for needs analyses. This enhances the quality of psychosocial interventions and increases more long-term, structural support that is created by scaling up bottom-up, community-led approaches. It reduces the eventuality of doing harm, prevents duplicating efforts and enables referral mechanisms.
Results of the good practice
In 2018, BMZ published a “Guiding Framework for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Development Cooperation” based on a two-year participatory consultation process with civil society partners in the Middle East and Germany. This framework entails guidelines and quality principles for MHPSS in order to inform project planning and evaluation as well as policies.
With Capacity Building lying at the core of high-quality psychosocial support, in 2019, a recommendation paper on “Training and Capacity Development in Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Development Cooperation” was published.
In July 2018, UNICEF and BMZ organized an expert meeting on MHPSS in protracted crises and displacement. The recommendations of the participants of the "Rebuilding Lives" conference were consolidated in a participatory process involving, among others, German civil society. The resulting recommendations focus on the scaling up of community-based and high-quality MHPSS approaches and the sustainable integration of MHPSS into existing local structures and were published in a report.
Other thematic expert exchanges include those on “Sexual Violence against Boys and Men in the Syria Crisis” in 2018 and on “Suicide Prevention in the Middle East” in 2019.