Parents On the Move

“It means a lot to me that I can get professional support in the camp "

by Irena Pašić, MdM psychologist in TRC Borići, USC
Roditelji u pokretu
UNICEF/Irena Pašić
14 February 2022

A mother Gulham* arrived from Afghanistan and is accommodated with her husband and three underaged children in the Temporary Reception Centre Borići in Una-Sana Canton. With prior consent, she shared her experience while being on the move for three years, transiting through Turkey, Greece, Serbia and arriving in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since one of the children is only one year and four months old, Gulham experienced some emotional difficulties on how to cope with a parental role in a very complex situation. Once, during an attempt to cross the border, they were with a group of people, and her nine-year-old daughter was tired, started crying and wanted to rest. However, the parents were afraid that they would lose the contact with the group and had to continue to walk. A little girl was supported emotionally to continue their way. On another occasion, the children got soaking wet in the river, and Gulham scorns herself for not being able to change children’s clothes.

Besides all difficulties, she emphasized that they met people here who helped them in many situations and the most important for her family is the enrolment of children in the local school.

Life on the move puts people into many dilemmas, which is even more difficult when you are a parent and thus it was valuable for her to receive a mental health support in the centre.

As a mother she wanted to receive professional advice about parenting skills as the whole family faces the insecurity of the migration journey, which is especially difficult for children. Respecting the needs of beneficiaries, Médecins du Monde provided info sessions to support mothers and fathers on the move in raising children. Gaining additional knowledge through these sessions, Gulham recognized some development difficulties with her older son, and was seeking for the professional advice in the Centre. Médecins du Monde psychologists supported her through consultations which behavioral change are needed to support her son in the best possible way.

She said: “It means a lot to me that I can get professional support in the camp and that psychologist also work with children. It is important that they regularly visit and check on us, we feel we are not alone and that there is a support.”

The Mental Health and Psychosocial Support approach is adjusted to the specific circumstances of the temporary reception centres and life on the move and people on the move are supported through group and individual psychological counselling sessions. It often involves provision of psychological first aid after traumatic events such as pushbacks from the border or other crisis situations. Médecins du Monde team bases its Mental health and psychosocial support intervention on the “do no harm” principle, and the treatment of complex psychological issues is gradual, since continuous work with a beneficiary is not granted due to their mobility.

In partnership with UNICEF, Médecins du Monde provided psychosocial support to migrant children and parents in Una Sana-Canton centers through the project „Strengthening refugee and migrant children’s health status in Southern and South-eastern Europe” funded by the European Union.

* Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy and safety