By Ashok Ramsarup :: The international medical humanitarian organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) / Doctor Without Borders has launched a new mental health intervention in the Tongogara Refugee Camp (TRC) at Chipinge in the Manicaland Province in south-eastern Zimbabwe. This coincides with the World Refugees Day chosen by the United Nations, focusing on the rights and safety of persons around the globe.
The Tongogara Refugee Camp is home to almost 15,000 refugees. Many refugees residing in the camp are from conflict areas across the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa. The vast majority of refugees come from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Mozambique.
Reports are indicating that the refugees had faced many traumatic events and suffering whilst in their home countries due to war and conflict, ultimately affecting their mental-being. The distress emanating from these events and life in the camp rarely gives them hope for the future, as chances of resettlement to other countries are limited for various reasons. Integration into society requires process and needs more livelihood programs. But refugees have stayed longer in the camp and feel idle, which causes distress and a feeling of hopelessness for many.
MSF Mental Health Activity Manager Janet Mukurumbira said: “The people living at the Tongogara Refugee Camp are exposed to various kinds of ailments and trauma. From fleeing the war zones, separating from family, grief, human rights violations, among other things in their countries of origin, leading to psychological pressures that’s affecting their overall mental well-being.
Mukurumbira added: “In addition, prolonged stay in the refugee camp makes everyone worried and anxious about their destiny.”
While the need for mental health services is high on the agenda, the MSF teams have discovered people’s natural resilience which comes from being positive and innovative. This has made their lives more cheerful, as MSF teams strive to strengthen this natural resilience.
Currently, MSF has embarked on intervention programmes, focusing on strengthening the refugees’ coping mechanisms and natural resilience at the individual, family and community level, which was borne out of an assessment conducted at the refugee camp in 2021. The humanitarian medical organisation has discovered that assessment shows that despite basic services, including education, food, water and healthcare in the camp, mental health support remains a priority as they are still grappling with past traumatic experiences caused by war and conflict.
“The activities being implemented by MSF at the refugee camp have a participatory approach, where refugees participate in designing activities. This encourages and ensures community ownership, sustainability and continuity of the project when MSF handover the project to the community and the other camp actors to support the community,” added Mukurumbira.