I am honoured to be making this intervention on behalf of the Nordic countries including Finland, Iceland, Norway Sweden and my own country, Denmark. Let me at the outset thank the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the United Nations for convening this important and timely meeting.
Addressing the need for mental health services and psychosocial support in armed conflict and emergencies is critical. As Russia’s military aggression which grossly violates international law and the UN Charter, and undermines international security and stability continues, a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Ukraine. We just marked 11 years of armed conflict in Syria. Yemen is torn to pieces. The humanitarian situation in South Sudan and Afghanistan is critical. These are just some examples of where civilian harm and humanitarian emergencies cause devastating physical and metal traumas for the population.
As always, the most marginalized are impacted the most. Not least children, whose physical and mental safety and wellbeing is under immense risks. Thousands of children are traveling alone and we must ensure that MHPSS and SGBV services are swiftly scaled up in order to ensure that children are offered the support and protection they need.
Recent numbers point to the fact that around 20 percent of people affected by humanitarian crises are in need of psychosocial care. Yet, only 2 percent have access to the services and care they require.
The numbers speak for themselves and only underline that, we need to keep the momentum and continue to push for joint efforts to address the dire and persisting mental health and psychosocial needs of people faced by armed conflict and humanitarian crisis.
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Psychological distress, caused by humanitarian crisis, assaults or armed conflict can have long-term impacts and severe consequences. Psychological distress manifests itself in many ways in protracted and post-conflict settings. Living with anxiety, trauma, acute stress disorder and clinical depression makes it difficult to take care of yourself and your family without the right access to support.
We know that significant barriers remain in ensuring access to MHPSS services. Just to mention a few: there are lack of coordinated MHPSS systems. There is widespread stigma and discrimination of people and caregivers with mental health disorders in communities and in health systems. There is a critical lack of financial and human resources in the MHPSS sector including lack of technical expertise. Finally, silos remain between MHPSS service provision, SGBV services and primary health services and lack strong referral systems.
In order to tackle these challenges, we would like to highlight three key priorities to take forward our collective efforts to further integrate mental health and psychosocial support into preparedness, response and recovery to meet the needs of all people affected by crises:
First of all, we need to integrate and prioritize mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian needs assessments across sectors, and in Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) and Refugee Response Plans (RRPs). It is important that MHPSS considerations are mainstreamed and that everyone in need are reached with services both when it comes to protection, health and nutrition, education, WASH and shelter. The Inter Agency Standing Committee MHPSS guidelines is a useful tool to ensure integration across sectors and interventions.
And we must ensure that the MHPSS services are available, indiscriminate and safe to access for everyone who needs them. This includes for survivors of sexual and gender based violence, and that providers of MHPSS services have the capacity to manage SGBV cases.
Second, we must acknowledge that ‘one size does not fit all’ and that engagement with affected people, communities and local organizations, including local women-led organizations is critical. This will ensure that MHPSS services are efficient and targeted specific needs on the ground. And it will also increase community awareness about mental health issues and decrease the risk of stigma. We all have a collective task to continue to push for more localization and local leadership in our humanitarian responses.
Third, strengthening capacity of medical officers, health workers in the health facilities to integrate mental health and psychosocial services into the existing primary health care system is important as is improving the access to these services and ensuring strong referral mechanism to SGBV services. In this regards, we must ensure that providers of MHPSS services have the capacity to manage cases of sexual and gender based violence.
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It is critical that all humanitarian actors step up on this. In this regard, we are happy to have the IFRC Reference Center for Psychosocial support in Copenhagen with broad Nordic support promoting and enabling the psychosocial support to beneficiaries, humanitarian staff and volunteers among other important things.
The Nordic countries also welcome the fact that MHPSS is the topic for UNHCRs Executive Committee Conclusions this year and we hope that the inputs to the pertinent questions raised in your concept note will provide clear and forward-looking recommendations that will be integrated into this work.
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Once again we thank the Mexican Mission to the UN to set up this meeting and for giving us the opportunity provide inputs on how to pursue the MHPSS agenda.