Rebuilding after conflict presents opportunity for mental health services

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Dr. Mark Van Ommeren of the WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. [Photo adapted from UNIFEED]

Rebuilding after conflict or humanitarian emergencies provides an opportunity to build better health services, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The agency is launching a report on the provision of sustainable, long-term mental health services ahead of World Humanitarian Day, observed on Monday 19 August.

It says that humanitarian agencies work hard to help people with their mental health and psychological needs in the aftermath of conflict and humanitarian emergencies.

However, it adds, too often opportunities are missed to strengthen mental health systems for the long-term.

Dr. Mark Van Ommeren of the WHO's Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, says there are ten cases, including Iraq and Sri Lanka where this opportunity was not missed.

"One of the reasons why it was successful was that from the beginning long-term mental health reform was planned for and supported. Secondly, in these ten cases the government's central role was respected. These were not outside agencies that came in and said 'we will do something for you and then disappear. The national professionals in all these places played a key role. The mental health system was developed and strengthened as a whole, so not just for trauma, not just for grief and then the health workers were reorganized and trained." (29)

Dr. Ommeren says that by launching its report around World Humanitarian Day, WHO aims to ensure that those faced by emergencies don't miss the opportunity to build better health services, including in the area of mental health.

Derrick Mbatha, United Nations

Duration: 1’49″

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