Jordan – Fighting mental health problems

In January 2016, a community project aimed at refugees and host populations in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, was launched. Two community centres in Jordan welcome more than 350 people every month.

From the moment that Samia arrived at social services, mental health counsellor Noor saw that the young woman, a Syrian refugee who had spent the past few years living in Amman, Jordan, was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress. Since Samia was unable to communicate in a group setting, Noor decided to treat her on her own. Little by little, she started to integrate her into group activities. As time passed, Samia showed herself to be a talented cook. Several weeks later, she had become the assistant in the centre’s cookery classes—a tremendous leap forward for this young woman.

Samia is one of the beneficiaries of a community programme developed by Premiere Urgence Internationale and funded by the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). The programme, which started in January 2016, aims to provide health and social care to refugees and host populations in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.

In Jordan, people receive guidance from social workers, who meet with them in their homes, evaluate their needs and direct them towards appropriate resources, such as the two community centres set up for this programme. “The refugees often face huge administrative obstacles in Jordan. Some cannot access health services at all because they often don’t have official documentation. Most live in poor conditions. The hygiene issues they have are really worrying, and they struggle to make ends meet,” notes Rosanna Rosengren-Klitgaard, manager of the community programme in Jordan for Première Urgence Internationale.

“They’re suffering from trauma”

Social workers welcome, educate and assist refugees through private sessions about their rights in the country. They educate refugees and vulnerable members of host populations about hygiene, the harmful effects of tobacco, and diabetes, while counsellors help those suffering from mental health issues. The community centres also organise individual and group psychological support sessions. “These Syrians might have been in the country for over three years, but they still have the memories of what happened in Syria. They’re suffering from trauma. And life is hard for them here because often the parents don’t have work and the children don’t go to school. Idleness, lack of legal documentation and difficult living conditions exacerbate mental health problems” Rosanna explains.

Mental health workers organise group activities, such as the cookery classes which Samia attended, in order to bring isolated adults together.

For refugee children, who often haven’t been able to go to school for several years, the community centres offer catch-up lessons in Arabic, English, maths and science. 73 children are being cared for at the community centres while waiting to find a place at a state school. Shahed, the teacher, remembers a 15-year-old who arrived at the centre completely illiterate. “After taking the course, he was able to read and write,” says Rosanna. “It’s a very helpful project which responds to concrete, definite needs.”

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