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“Advocate Teams” set up for Mental Health and Psychosocial Response during Emergencies in Middle East and North Africa region

AMMAN, 18 April 2010 – A UNICEF-coordinated training workshop on how to provide mental health and psychosocial support for persons affected by emergencies in the Middle East and North Africa region was opened in Amman today, with the participation of 40 experts from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territory and Syria.

“Experience has shown that armed conflicts and natural disasters leave a long-lasting psychological and social impact wherever they occur,” said Sue Prosser, Psychosocial Support Expert at UNICEF’s Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa. “It is essential that humanitarian actors know how to protect the mental health and wellbeing of persons affected by emergencies.”

The setting up of these “Advocate Teams” is part of global concerted efforts to strengthen and coordinate humanitarian responses to crises.

Participants in the Amman meeting include social workers, decision-makers in relevant ministries, university researchers and community group leaders, in addition to representatives of United Nations agencies and international organizations including UNRWA, WHO, UNHCR and Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

They will form teams of Advocates per country working on the adoption and use of essential guidelines on how to offer mental health and psychosocial support in emergency situations. In the event of an emergency, the Advocate Teams members will be called upon to immediately assist from any location in the world.

“Protecting and responding to the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of people is essential not only in times of emergencies but also in times of stability. This must include populations who seek sanctuary across borders. It is key to normal recovery” said Alison Shafer from World Vision International and member of the regional Advocates Committee.

This training, funded by World Vision Middle East AusAid programme, is the first of a series that will be held in various parts of the world to ensure that better mental health and psychosocial support is provided to populations affected by natural or man-made disasters.

About the IASC Mental Health and Psychosocial Support: In 2007, the IASC Mental Health and Psychosocial Support group issued guidelines to enable humanitarian actors and communities to plan, establish and coordinate a set of minimum multi-sectoral responses to protect and improve people’s mental health and psycho-social wellbeing not only during an emergency but guidelines for preparation and comprehensive response. www.humanitarianinfo.org/iasc

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Charbel Raji, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa, +962-79-731-5788, craji@unicef.org.




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