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Establishing an inter-agency rapid deployment mechanism for mental health and psychosocial support: what did we do, what did we learn and where are we going?

This session is part of the the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Weeks 2021 from April 19 – May 07.

This session is co-sponsored by: IASC Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergencies, Dutch Surge Support (Netherlands Enterprise Agency), Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Carmen Valle-Trabadelo, Technical Advisor in the Psychosocial Centre and co-chair of the IASC Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings, is an organiser and panelist for this event.

This session will explain how this MHPSS rapid deployment mechanism functions and present experiences and lessons learned from the seventeen deployments in 2020. We will also discuss opportunities and challenges in supporting interagency MHPSS coordination at the country level.

Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) is a cross-cutting area in humanitarian work, with services and activities in multiple sectors such as health, protection, nutrition, education and others. The Inter-Agency Standing Committee released Guidelines on MHPSS in Emergency Settings in 2007 to assist organizations with a set of minimum responses to protect, support and improve mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of people in emergencies.

In the last decade, country-level MHPSS working groups (WGs) were established in many humanitarian emergencies, as a technical cross-sectoral space to coordinate MHPSS service provision, facilitate MHPSS assessments, conduct service mappings, support inter-agency capacity building, develop country-level action plans and advocate for MHPSS services within humanitarian relief efforts. Country level MHPSS WGs receive support and technical guidance from the global IASC Reference Group on MHPSS in Emergency Settings.

In January 2020, there were MHPSS WGs in 22 countries covering clusterized emergencies, refugee and migration contexts. In December 2020, this number had grown to 52, largely as a result of the prioritization of mental health as integral part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as exemplified in the integration of MHPSS throughout the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) for COVID-19.

To support better integration of MHPSS within the humanitarian response and simultaneously tackle the shortage of qualified MHPSS providers and specialists, the Dutch Surge Support (DSS) MHPSS programme was launched in January 2020. This programme is a unique mechanism for rapid deployment of MHPSS experts to support multisectoral coordination and interagency capacity building in humanitarian contexts. It is funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented by the Netherlands Enterprise and Development Agency in collaboration with the IASC Reference Group on MHPSS in Emergency Settings.

This session will explain MHPSS rapid deployment mechanism functions and present experiences and lessons learned from the seventeen deployments in 2020. We will also discuss opportunities and challenges in supporting interagency MHPSS coordination at the country level, with a specific focus on refugee settings. The session will conclude with an open discussion with participants on how surge support can contribute to a further consolidation of the growing field of MHPSS in emergencies.

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