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Humanitarian Programme boosts feelings of security and well-being of young Syrian refugees

Posted: 25th October 2017

A new study has shown that an eight-week humanitarian intervention can improve the mental health and wellbeing of Syrian refugee and Jordanian youth in communities affected by the crisis in Syria.

About 5.2 million people have been forced to flee the six-year-old conflict in Syria, and over 650,000 Syrians are now rebuilding their lives in neighbouring Jordan.

The study brought together researchers from Yale University, the Institute for Global Health and Development at QMU in Edinburgh, Columbia University and the Hashemite University in Jordan. Published this month in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, showed that a community-based programme for war-affected youth operating in Northern Jordan reduced the insecurity, distress, and mental-health difficulties of vulnerable boys and girls aged 12-18 years.

In a randomized controlled trial, the researchers learned that the programme most benefitted adolescents who had been exposed to four or more traumatic experiences.

“Community-based mental health interventions can help young people process the extreme stress of war and forced displacement,” said Catherine Panter-Brick, Professor of Anthropology, Health, and Global Affairs at Yale University and the study’s lead author. “Our findings will help humanitarian organisations develop robust, evidence-based programming to strengthen the mental health and protect the development of war-affected youth.”

The researchers worked in partnership with Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organisation, which implemented the eight-week psychosocial program for refugee and host community youth evaluated in the study. The programme consisted of group-based activities and skills building intended to develop social cohesion and reduce the effects of profound stress.

The researchers also found that, over time, symptoms reduced in both treatment and control groups, but that with respect to feelings of insecurity, those engaged in the psycho-social intervention had sustained benefits relative to youth who did not, enhancing their recovery.

“It clearly makes sense to ensure that youth displaced from Syria are kept engaged in meaningful activities. But this study provides strong evidence that a short, structured programme can really make a difference to their sense of security and well-being as they face an uncertain future,” said Professor Alastair Ager, co-Investigator on the study and Director of the Institute for Global Health and Development at Queen Margaret University (QMU).

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