German Government Supports UNRWA to Provide Integrated Mental Health Services for Palestine Refugees

06 July 2017
An UNRWA staff member who underwent training in psychosocial support through funds from the German government receives her certificate. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Mahmoud Abu Salah

Today, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) hosted a ceremony to recognise the 127 Agency staff members who received training in psychosocial support through funds from the German government, implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). 

The ceremony was attended by Stefanie Scharf, Head of Cooperation, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany; Gwyn Lewis, Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon; Marieke Gattermann, GIZ Project Advisor; and Dr. Nimisha Patel, GIZ Consultant, in addition to UNRWA staff.

(From left to right) Marieke Gattermann, GIZ Project Advisor; Gwyn Lewis, Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon; and Stefanie Scharf, Head of Cooperation, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Mahmoud Abu Salah
(From left to right) Marieke Gattermann, GIZ Project Advisor; Gwyn Lewis, Deputy Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon; and Stefanie Scharf, Head of Cooperation, Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Mahmoud Abu Salah

The American University of Beirut’s Survey on the Socioeconomic Status of Palestine Refugees in Lebanon in 2015 found that over half of Palestine refugees from Lebanon and some 85 per cent of Palestine refugees from Syria living in Lebanon reported feeling worried about not being able to provide for their families and fearing for their safety, and about losing their source of income, which can negatively affect their psychosocial well-being.

In cooperation with its partners, UNRWA works to address these issues and support the mental health and psychosocial well-being of Palestine refugees in all of its fields of operations.

Ms. Lewis said: “Mental health contributes substantially to many aspects of life: including physical health, productivity and family relations. Ensuring support to the mental health well-being of a person helps them to avoid falling into patterns of victimization or criminality and all in all can lead to happier life.”

She added, “UNRWA appreciates the support of the Government of Germany in acknowledging the importance of providing support to mental health and psychosocial services for the Palestine refugee community and helping us to develop our mental health and psychosocial support strategy in the region. Thanks to the German support, in Lebanon we have been able to integrate mental health and psychosocial services for Palestine refugees within all of our programmes.”

The training, conducted by GIZ, was designed specifically for the context of Palestine refugees. UNRWA staff were trained in the resource-oriented and holistic ‘Prevention, Assessment, Intervention and Referral’ (PAIR) approach, which goes beyond diagnosing individual symptoms and seeks to understand psychosocial needs in its specific context. It seeks to empower the individual, as well as the community, to mobilize self-help capacities.

The training developed the capacity of 19 Agency staff members as peer trainers in this tailored approach to mental health and psychosocial support. Following the initial training, the skills were passed on through multiplication groups, led by the original trainees, resulting in an additional 127 staff being trained to provide psychosocial services. Additionally, psychosocial support groups were built to support each other in dealing with challenging cases and stress.

Alaa Murra, one of the focal points who was trained and has passed on his knowledge to other colleagues, said, “This is still the beginning of the road; our path is long and our aim is, of course, a better service – for people who deserve well-being, despite their circumstances.”

During the ceremony, the representatives from UNRWA and the German government recognized the work of Dr. Nimisha Patel, Dr. David Becker and Linsa Mohammed of the Office for Psychosocial Issues, who supported the development of the Agency’s approach and facilitated the trainings for Agency staff. Barbara Boekhoudt, the project manager, was also recognised for her support and care for UNRWA staff and Palestine refugees in Lebanon.

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
Help send a Palestine refugee child to school