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Returnees, health workers join hands to improve psychosocial well-being in Nigeria

NIGERIA RETURNEES FROM EUROPE

COVID-19continues to put a strain on public health systems, as well as on the livelihoods and purchasing power of people around the world. But as the pandemic shows no signs of abating, the impact on the mental health of the most vulnerable –including migrants returned to their communities– becomes more visible. As part of the response to address this challenge, from 16 to 19 November, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) hosted in Benin City, Edo State, a series of modules to train 20 returnees in a community-based approach to psychosocial reintegration.

Under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration, IOM conducted in May a COVID-19 assessment to measure the impact of the pandemic on returnees in various countries in West and Central Africa. Among 518 people surveyed, 63 per cent reported that their emotional wellbeing had deteriorated since the outbreak of COVID-19, including 90 per cent of respondents from Edo and Delta States.

The impact of the pandemic adds a layer of vulnerability to returnees, some of whom had already started rebuilding their lives, and who were experiencing high levels of psychosocial distress or severe disorders, both pre-existing or due to potentially traumatic life events along their journey.
Yet, many areas with high numbers of returnees may lack specialized mental health care and psychosocial services and have a limited number of professional staff such as psychiatrists and psychologists.

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The training conducted in Benin City aims to build a mentorship network and create supportive relationships between two peers with similar experiences, such as a newly arrived returnee and a mentor from the same location or a group of peers within a community.

Returnees with experience in community engagement, or those with specific backgrounds such as social workers or teachers, have been selected as mentors. They can help new arrivals navigate the difficulties of the return and reduce the social barriers to reintegration by providing emotional support, helping solve practical problems and sharing information about services that provide mental health and psychosocial support in the country.

“This training will help me use my own story to be able to support Nigerians who have just returned because they need someone to confide in. As a mentor, I should be able to listen to them and advise them, and tell them that they should not give up on life,” said Kenan Osagie, a returnee and one of the female participants.

READ  UK-born children of migrants 'feel more discriminated against' than foreign migrants

The initiative followed a four-day training (10-13/11) for primary healthcare professionals on the management and treatment of mental disorders. The training was conducted in coordination with the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health.

This instruction was based on the Mental Health Gap Action Programme (MHGAP), a protocol developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as on additional IOM tools and international guidelines to identify and respond to mental disorders, which were adapted to the Nigerian context. The training sessions delved into migration and mental health with a focus on the return journey, as well as an overview of MHGAP’s principles of care, depression, suicide and self-harm, psychoses, epilepsy, alcohol, and substance abuse.

The event gathered 20  participants from primary healthcare centers from the localities in Edo State, the main place of origin of Nigerian returnees.

“This marks a key step in strengthening the national mental health care system in Nigeria,” said the lead trainer, Dr. Funke Ogunderu, IOM Nigeria MHPSS Senior Project Assistant. “As a pilot project, this training will help reduce the gap for migrants and their communities gaining access to mental healthcare and psychosocial support,” she added.

Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) is a fundamental part of sustainable reintegration. It aims at protecting and enhancing migrants’ psychosocial wellbeing, as well as at supporting people with pre-existing and emerging mental disorders.

READ  UAE repatriates 170 NIgerians with expired visas for from Dubai

Strengthening the mental healthcare system and enhancing the skills of returnees to provide community-based psychosocial support signal IOM’s holistic approach to MHPSS in Nigeria. The mentoring project and training for primary healthcare workers are funded by the European Union under the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.

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IOM provides food vouchers to vulnerable refugees and migrants affected by COVID-19 in Brazil

 Nearly 4,000 vulnerable refugees and migrants in Brazil affected by mobility restrictions and the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving vouchers from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to purchase food and other basic items.  The vouchers are one-time offers, valued at about USD 100.

IOM is closely coordinating the activity with local governments and 31 humanitarian partners, prioritizing families with children and elderly persons who face food insecurity due to lack of a regular income.

The distribution of the vouchers is taking place in more than half of Brazil’s states, states which were selected based on those locations where the most vulnerable refugees and migrants are living. In particular, Venezuelans relocated by the Federal Government are a top priority. They reside in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Minas Gerais, Pernambuco, Pará, and the federal district, Brasilia.

Other states have been selected based on the requests by the local governments and civil society organizations, such as the state of Acre. Many are located at the triple border area shared by Brazil, Bolivia and Peru, where migrants and refugees have been stranded due to COVID-19’s border restrictions.

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In September, IOM reported on the hindered mobility that has been one of the most common impacts of COVID-19 on different categories of refugees and migrants across Latin America, especially Venezuelans.

Many migrants are unable to continue their journey and remain stranded in transit countries; many others cannot not leave their countries to embark on the first legs of their journeys. Migrants stranded at airports, land border crossing areas or at sea were featured in multiple reports, as were migrants camping in front of Embassies asking for support from their Governments (for example, hundreds of migrants from the Plurinational State of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela have been camping outside their respective embassies in Chile requesting support to return home).

That is the situation IOM is responding to in Brazil.

To Miriangela, a Venezuelan who arrived in Rio de Janeiro two years ago, this support is essential. “I live alone with my 7-year-old son and I’m not working at the moment. With the voucher I can buy food and cleaning products,” she explained.

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In Brasilia, IOM’s activity also benefits some 60 Warao Venezuelans, members of indigenous tribes. “We are very grateful for the help. This is the first time that we have received a food voucher, being able to choose what we will buy,” said Nilda, who had been living in the city for two months with eight other family members.

Vinícius Duque, a coordinator of Policies for Migrants and Promotion of Decent Work from the city of São Paulo, explained: “Networking is essential in this moment of public emergency. More than ever, these partnerships need to be strengthened. This action is the result of a joint effort between IOM and the government, contributing uniquely to expand the different actions and policies that have been developed on different fronts, benefiting immigrant families in situations of extreme vulnerability in the city of São Paulo.”

This initiative is part of the IOM Global Response to the COVID-19 pandemic and has a national partnership with Sodexo Pass do Brasil and the Stop Hunger Institute for the issuance of vouchers.  Financial support is granted by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the United States Department of State.

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IOM’s Chief of Mission in Brazil, Stéphane Rostiaux, said: “At this time, when many families have suffered not only from the health effects of the pandemic but also from the socioeconomic impact, this support which allows food provision respecting people’s autonomy is essential.”

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Over 100 stranded Ugandan women provided with return assistance from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

 

On Tuesday (01/12) the International Organization for Migration (IOM) assisted 105 stranded Ugandan women, including victims of trafficking, to return home from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). They were stranded due to COVID-19.

Thousands of Ugandan migrant workers are working in KSA and other parts of the Middle East, mainly as domestic workers and security guards. When COVID-19 started, many lost their jobs. They also faced stigma and xenophobia. Prior to the pandemic, most of the 105 women who returned home safely had been sending money back home to support their families.

The women arrived in Uganda on a return flight funded by German Humanitarian Assistance, in co-ordination with authorities in Saudi Arabia and Uganda. Upon arrival, many looked relieved to be home, despite evident signs of stress.

“At least, I thank God I have returned alive,” one woman said to another as they walked towards the buses taking them to their overnight accommodation.

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“The plight of many migrant workers in the COVID-19 era highlights both the devastation of the pandemic as well as the importance of organized international labour migration,” said IOM Uganda Chief of Mission Sanusi Tejan Savage.

The economic impact of COVID-19 on these women, and on migrant workers in general, has been devastating. Ugandans working abroad contributed approximately 4.5 percent to Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product, placing it above the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 2.8 percent.  IOM is working with the Ugandan and Gulf nations as well as other partners to enhance labour rights and protection for migrant workers.

“The economic impact of COVID-19 is affecting the employment prospects of many, and IOM is offering assistance during this difficult period. We commend the efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which contributed to ‘leaving no one behind’ and helping the most vulnerable to return home voluntarily,” explained Carmela Godeau, IOM Regional Director for Middle East and North Africa.

READ  Dozens of migrants die in 30 days 

The return of these 105 women is the second intervention of IOM Uganda to support the return of stranded migrants since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In September, IOM in Uganda and Bahrain helped 113 Ugandan women return from Saudi Arabia, following an appeal for help by the Ugandan authorities.

“The information from the Uganda Government indicating in May that more than 2,400 mostly vulnerable Ugandan migrant workers were stranded abroad was distressing enough and, as IOM, we are doing all we can to improve the safety, welfare and dignity of migrant workers from the region,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa.

Many migrant workers from Uganda and Africa remain stranded and without work. They are facing tremendous difficulties abroad, and may face even greater challenges when they return.

These returns are part of IOM Uganda’s support in respect of COVID-19. IOM has also supported the Government with COVID-19 surveillance at the Entebbe International Airport and other points of entry.

READ  Benue community where children are trafficked for money, sex

 

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120 Central African, Sudanese refugees resettled to France

Over the past week (starting 27/11), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitated the resettlement of 120 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) to France. The refugees, including 65 women and 55 men left N’Djamena (Chad) on a chartered flight last Friday morning. Many had spent more than ten years in Chad, awaiting a chance to be resettled and restart their lives.

All COVID-19 sanitary protocols were adhered to during the resettlement operation (including PCR-testing to COVID-19 prior departure). In addition to COVID-19 screening, the refugees were screened for medical conditions and received in-depth pre-departure orientation to ensure their integration in their new society goes as smoothly as possible.

Upon arrival in France, the refugees were welcomed by French NGOs who will provide administrative and social support for a one-year period.

“Resettlement offers refugees a unique opportunity to rebuild their lives in dignity. It is thus an important part of finding durable solutions to refugee situations, of which we are proud to participate,” said Anne Schaefer, IOM Chad Chief of Mission.

READ  Remittances and Beyond: COVID-19 impacts all forms of migrants economic contributions

With more than 480,000 refugees living in 14 camps and various urban centres, Chad is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in West and Central Africa. IOM works closely with Government, non-governmental and UN partners, to ensure that the most vulnerable among them have access to durable and lifesaving solutions such as resettlement to a third country.

This includes eligibility assessment and referral, accommodation in a transit centre (once refugee status has been determined and the resettlement process has been initiated), pre-departure medical screening, vulnerability assessment, flight and support for durable integration in the destination country.

In 2020, IOM in Chad resettled 312 refugees from Sudan and the Central African Republic to France, Australia, Canada, Sweden and Norway.

Djamal’s Story

I arrived in Chad from the Central African Republic with my mother and my seven siblings in 2014. I was 16 years old. We fled because of the violence in our country. When we arrived, we had nothing. We had no money, and we knew no one. We first went to Moundou [Southern Chad]. From there, international organizations helped us contact family members. Afterwards, we went to the Doholo refugee camp [near the border with CAR] to be registered as refugees. It was not easy. In the camp, my mother learnt about nutritional health and started working as an assistant in the health centre. The little that she earned helped us make ends meet. It was this work that helped us survive while we lived in the camp. We are happy to be going to France. I have made some friends here. Some of them work as drivers, others want to go back to school. My dream is to become a pilot. I have always been fascinated by planes, and I hope that in France, I will be able to realize my dream.‎

READ  IOM, 200 others to send unified message to victims xenophobia, discrimination caused by Covid 19

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