Reducing Psychological Distress, Intimate Partner Violence Among Forced Migrants 

HIAS, an international humanitarian MHPSS implementing agency, in partnership with Columbia University and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, adapted, implemented, and evaluated an integrated psychosocial intervention to improve psychological well-being and reduce intimate partner violence (IPV) among forced migrants in Ecuador and Panama. Mental health and psychosocial problems affecting migrant women are inextricable from other multisectoral priorities such as safety, security, meeting basic needs, protection from violence, and discrimination and xenophobia. Thus, a multisectoral approach to MHPSS policy is critical for impact and sustainability.   

Feedback from the participants in the Entre Nosotros program in Ecuador

Feedback from the participants in the Entre Nosotros program in Panama

This work adapted Nguvu, an integrated IPV and mental health intervention, from a focused, non-specialized psychological and protection intervention into a psychosocial intervention integrated into basic, evidence-based protection services for women in forcibly displaced communities. Specifically, the project integrated Psychological First Aid (PFA) to promote mental health and psychosocial well-being with Advocacy Counseling to reduce the frequency and severity of IPV. The intervention aimed to improve psychosocial wellbeing and reduce IPV through strengthening linkages to community-based supports, health and protection services, and the direct provision of basic psychosocial support among women in four complex humanitarian settings. This study then evaluated the implementation and effectiveness of the intervention in the context of COVID-19. 

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  • Psychological distress, depression, xenophobia and discrimination, and gender-based violence are important psychosocial problems facing migrant women in Ecuador and Panamá. 
  • It is feasible to integrate community-based participatory methodologies to design and deliver psychosocial interventions that align with the needs and preferences of populations in humanitarian settings 
  • Non-specialists can deliver a group psychosocial intervention to community members with high fidelity and competency. 
  • Mental health and psychosocial problems affecting migrant women are inextricable from other multisectoral priorities such as safety, security, meeting basic needs, protection from violence, and discrimination and xenophobia. Thus, a multisectoral approach to MHPSS policy is critical for impact and sustainability.

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Policy & Practice Achievements

HIAS implemented a cross-divisional Global Learning Group, comprised of program staff, strategy and measurement staff, and public affairs and advocacy staff, to work towards the following objectives:
Evidence-Based Practice | Thought Leadership | Policy influence | Research Capacity 

Resources 

Evaluating the feasibility of a group psychosocial intervention for migrant and host community women in Ecuador and Panamá: protocol for a multi-site feasibility cluster trial – Pilot and Feasibility Studies (2022)