“A key element of this work is to create trust” 

“I joined the Dutch Surge Support pool in September 2020. Shortly after, I was deployed to the Libya response to support the reactivation of the MHPSS Technical Working Group (TWG). I was based in Tunis and worked at the IOM office. The MHPSS coordination body for the Libya response had been inactive for several months. Therefore, coordinators were needed to find out who is doing what, where, and for whom (“4W mapping”), to highlight the MHPSS needs in the country, and to work with the Libyan Ministry of Health and humanitarian sector leads. This was necessary to think of ways to tackle the needs of the Libyan people and strengthen the MHPSS skills of humanitarian actors.

Working together

I could not have achieved these goals without the ongoing support of my IOM colleagues and teamwork with my co-lead from International Medical Corps (IMC). We started with a short observation, followed by interviews with Libyan informants and brainstorming sessions with IOM and IMC MHPSS specialists. Then, we decided to focus our efforts on:

  1. Strengthening a diverse MHPSS community by freely sharing thoughts and practices with group members;
  2. Encouraging solidarity, coordination and collaboration between all actors that want to protect or promote psychosocial well-being to prevent or treat mental health conditions;
  3. Encouraging opportunities for intellectual renewal, fostering MHPSS skill strengthening, and reflection on care practices. This was adapted to the Libyan social and cultural environment and to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees living in Libya.

Building trust

A key element of this work is to create trust. Also, to build a common language and understanding around MHPSS. On the one hand, part of my role was to help local actors understand the framework documents for MHPSS in the humanitarian sector. And on the other hand, to shine a light on local practices and bring up the needs and experiences of actors in the field in the coordination meetings. My background in clinical psychology and skills in Arabic encouraged local actors to share professional practices often kept silent in decision-making coordination spaces.

Towards a sustainable future

It was a major challenge to coordinate the MHPSS TWG for Libya and capture the MHPSS population’s needs during the COVID-19 outbreak while working from Tunis. Even so, with the 6 months of support provided by DSS, the MHPSS TWG managed to complete the 4W exercise, hold 6 coordination calls with all actors interested in MHPSS, hold 2 capacity-building workshops, and edit their first newsletter. DSS support also provided enough time for IOM to look for funds and sustain this position for a longer period. The transfer of this coordinating institute to a public one is necessary. This requires the commitment of humanitarian actors and public institutes, and time to arrange the necessary means and resources for the sustainability of this coordinating institute.”