08-10-2021 | Latest News , Africa

Video news footage: ahead of world mental health day, concern for ethiopian refugees rises

As fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and other areas in the north of the country forces more people to flee their homes, Ethiopian refugees in the camps in south-east Sudan face increasingly dire living conditions, a situation that ultimately greatly impacts their mental health.

Daniel is an Ethiopian refugee who fled violence and is now living in the Um Rakouba refugee camp in Sudan. “It's difficult for most youth here, they are addicted to drugs and alcohol. It's bad for them. They are stressed and at times they became suicidal. I'm just pushing on by playing football and traditional music instruments in order for my mind to be free.”

World Mental Health Day, which is observed on 10 October, is a moment to remember the high mental health needs in Africa. The continent has 1.4 mental health workers per 100,000 people, compared with a global average of 9.0 per 100,000. While the global annual rate of visits to mental health outpatient facilities is about 1,000 per 100,000 people, in Africa the rate is 14 per 100,000 (according to WHO). Stigma surrounding mental health issues, along with the lack of specialized facilities and personnel, are among reasons preventing people from seeking and receiving help. 

Milena Osorio, the program coordinator for the ICRC’s MHPSS programme, said that: “The situation in Africa is very concerning because there’s a huge gap in between the needs that we see from people affected by conflict and violence and the services available for them. There are very few mental health professionals so it’s difficult to access this service.”

For Ethiopian refugees in Sudan, food, clean water, shelter and sanitation are desperately insufficient, and an increasing number of people suffer from malnutrition and diseases like malaria and hepatitis E. The onset of the rainy season worsened the situation and some refugees are choosing to undertake dangerous migration routes or move to other areas of the country.

Besides the harsh living conditions, thousands of refugees are unable to contact their family members with telecommunication networks in many areas of the Tigray region down. Many people suffer trauma and emotional distress, following months of not knowing if they will be reunited with their spouses and children.       

Brhan Geberzgiher, one of the refugees, said: “When the conflict started it was a big and we were all affected. I’ve been trying to communicate with my family back home, but I am afraid about them. I don’t think they are alive.”

In most situations of ongoing conflict and violence, people are exposed to extremely traumatic events, and struggle on a day-to-day basis to survive. In these situations, personal, social and economic devastation is immediate, widespread and hard-hitting. This creates or exacerbates significant immediate and long-term mental health and psychosocial needs.

Osorio said that mental health treatment is a live-saving intervention in conflict situations, noting that “you can provide all the food but ultimately there is not one that is more important than the other. They should go hand in hand and building the emotional strength and resilience of individuals and communities is as important as assisting them.”

The ICRC supports the Sudan Red Crescent Society (SRCS) in Gedaref and Kassala to help refugees maintain contact with their families. The SRCS works in Um Rakouba and Tunaydba Ethiopian refugee camps, in Shargrab camp for Ertirean refugees, as well as in two transit sites.

For further information, please contact:

Aurélie Lachant, Geneva, +41 79 244 6405, alachant@icrc.org 

Alyona Synenko, Nairobi, +254 716 987 265, asynenko@icrc.org 

SHOTLIST

Location: Gadaref, Sudan

Length: 5.34

Format: mp4

Editor: Eric Chege

Date: 06/10/2021

Copyright: ICRC access all

On Screen Credit: ICRC or Logo

 

00:00 - 00:08 : Shots of an Ethiopian refugee settlement in Gadaref, Sudan

00:09 - 00:17 : Shot of an Ethiopian refugee (Daniel) walking into his house.

00:18 - 00:31 : Shots of Daniel laying on his bed.

00:32 - 00:50 : Interview - Daniel, Ethiopian Refugee in Sudan - “I came with my uncle only. The rest of my family are back at home. When we came here, I thought that we would return to our home in two to three months. But now we have been here for almost nine months.”

00:51 - 01:05 : Shots of Daniel in his house playing a traditional musical instrument.

01:06 - 01:40 : Interview - Daniel, Ethiopian Refugee in Sudan - “It's difficult for most youth here, they are addicted to drugs and alcohol. It's bad for them. They are stressed and at times they became suicidal. I'm just pushing on by playing football and traditional music instruments in order for my mind to be free.”

01:41 - 01:57 : Shots of Daniel singing using a traditional musical instrument.

01:58 - 02:05 : Various shots of Brhan Geberzgiher outside her house.

02:06 - 02:17 : Shots of Brhan Geberzgiher inside her home.

02:18 - 03:02 : Interview - Brhan Geberzgiher, Ethiopian Refugee in Sudan - “When the conflict started it was a big and we were all affected. I’ve been trying to communicate with my family back home but I am afraid about them. I don’t think they are alive. I am so worried because we lost all our food and cereal at home.

03:03 - 03:19 : Various shots of Sudan Red Crescent registering people for family reunification and tracing services.

03:20 - 04:20 : Interview -  Milena Osorio, MHPSS Programme Coordinator - “The situation in Africa is very concerning because there’s a huge gap in between the needs that we see from people affected by conflict and violence and the services available for them. There are very few mental health professionals so it’s difficult to access this service. There’s also the issue of stigma, cultural traditions and beliefs that go against the idea of looking for a psychologist or a mental health professional. The proposal for us is the importance for states and humanitarian agencies to recognize this and work in developing the workforce for mental health at the same time providing strategies of support that are culturally relevant and that make sense to the people in Africa that they can believe and relate to and facilitating the access. This is a serious and complex issue that needs to be tackled as a matter of relevance.

04:21 - 04:32 : Various shots of Sudan Red Crescent registering people for family reunification and tracing services.

04:33 - 04:40 : Shots of refugee settlement in Gadaref, Sudan

04:41 - 05:34 : Interview -  Milena Osorio, MHPSS Programme Coordinator - “There’s an interesting debate of whether providing water, food, shelter is the emergency response and mental health is not and what we believe and we’ve seen is that you can provide people with food and if they don’t have the energy to wake up and cook for their children and provide for the families then you can provide all the food but ultimately there’s is not one that is more important than the other. They should go hand in hand and building the emotional strength and resilience of individuals and communities is as important as assisting them. We want to make sure that they are building their strength to build a more positive future for themselves and this is done by fostering their mental health and psychosocial wellbeing.

END

 

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