Mental health in peacebuilding: towards reintegration in Iraq

August 10, 2022

Photo: Mercy Hands. 2022.

Peacebuilding is not complete without considering impacts on mental health. Wounds experienced by people in conflict have a lasting impact on our sense of community and can lead to perpetuating cycles of despair and violence.

UNDP Iraq’s Community-based Reconciliation and Reintegration Project, funded by the Government of Japan, has been working to encourage reintegration of 4,000 families in four areas of Anbar, Ninewa and Salah al-Din governorates with a comprehensive package of livelihood support, housing rehabilitation, and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for previously displaced returnees and community members.

On 03 August 2022, four sessions were held in Habbaniyah and Qaim, Anbar, Muhalabiya, Ninewa, and Tuz Khurmatu, Salah al-Din, to discuss Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Services available to returnees including families perceived as affiliated with ISIL and community members. The services are available through our partner Mercy Hands for Humanitarian Aid, and included induction meetings, information sessions, counselling services, and specialized services related to Sexual and Gender-Based Violence.

Photo: Discussion in Qaim. 2022.

“We suffered the most in Al-Hol Camp, but upon our return we were admitted to the rehabilitation programme. My experience with the psychological support programme was useful, and I feel that many families can benefit from these programmes.”

-Fatima*, 27, former wife of an ISIL member, Qaim (not pictured)

*Name has been changed.

Photo: Dr. Salah. 2022.

“Psychological support is very important in building a person’s self-confidence. Through psychological support, it is possible to build a community with people who wish to live life with sound concepts and ideas. Psychological support has accelerated the reintegration of community members following the war with ISIL.”

-Dr. Salah, 34, Mental Health Officer, Habbaniyah

Photo: Siham. 2022.

“We need to continue educating communities on mental health, which includes ensuring adequate sleep, exercise, eating healthy meals, forming positive relationships, and properly dealing with anger.”

-Siham, 47, Civil Activist, Muhalabiya

Photo: Huda. 2022.

“My husband is unable to work, and I was exhausted because of my psychological state. But with help from the health center and by attending mental health sessions with Mercy Hands, my psychological condition has become much better.”

-Huda, 40, community member, Tuz Khurmatu.

UNDP Iraq has launched in 2020 a dedicated five-year Social Cohesion Programme to promote stronger, peaceful, and more cohesive communities in all areas of Iraq.