The European Union Supports Mental Health Training for UNRWA Staff

21 April 2017
UNRWA hosted a ceremony in Lebanon to recognize the 207 Agency staff trained in mental health support through funds from the EU. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rania Saadallah

Today, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) hosted a ceremony to recognize the 207 Agency staff trained in mental health support through funds from the European Union (EU). 

The ceremony was attended by the Head of the Sustainable Development Section at the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Jose Luis Vinuesa, and the Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone, in addition to UNRWA staff.

The Mental Health Gap training was achieved through the Spring Fund project that was financed by the EU with a grant of nearly EUR 6 million.  

Mr. Cordone said: “When I visited Ein El Hilweh last week following the most recent conflict, I saw the impact of the conflict and heard from the refugees about the effect on people’s lives, their homes and especially on the children.” 
“We as UNRWA are keen to play our role – together with our partners and donors – in providing services that help Palestine refugees to recover,” he added. “Today we celebrate a strong partnership between organizations with a common interest in supporting the mental health of Palestine refugees in Lebanon. I would like to thank all involved and look forward to further joint efforts in this regard.”

Mr. Vinuesa said: “As a result of this EU support, UNRWA staff are now equipped with enhanced skills in mental health and psychosocial support." 

He continued, "This ceremony is first and foremost about you. It is about your capacity to provide high-quality mental health and psychosocial support to Palestinian refugees. It is about your capacity to support them through a stressful and continuously challenging environment.”

During the ceremony, the representatives from UNRWA and the European Union together recognized the work of Nibal Sayyad, Maureen Mahfouz and Dr. Ghassan Assaf, who collectively led the development of the Agency’s approach and delivered the training in the mental health and psychological support of Palestine refugees. They thanked them for their support and the care they have shown for UNRWA staff and Palestine refugees in Lebanon. 

The support of Dr. Rabieh Chammay, from Lebanon’s Ministry of Health, for the development of the Agency’s approach to supporting issues of mental health in Lebanon was also acknowledged. The ceremony also included the distribution of certificates to many of the staff who undertook the training. 

The training aimed at developing the capacity of front-line staff drawn from all core departments through a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to addressing the needs of local communities with regard to mental health and psychosocial support services. It was also a great opportunity to discuss social challenges in mental health and raise awareness to combat stigma. 

The American University of Beirut’s Survey on the Socioeconomic Status of Palestine Refugees in Lebanon in 2015 found that over half of Palestine refugees from Lebanon and some 85 per cent of Palestine refugees from Syria living in Lebanon reported suffering from poor mental health, anxiety about their families and their safety, and losing their source of income. In cooperation with its partners, UNRWA works to address these issues and support the mental and psychosocial health and well-being of Palestine refugees in all of its fields of operations. 

EU and UNRWA: Together for Palestine Refugees

Since 1971, the European Union and UNRWA have maintained a strategic partnership governed by the shared objective to support the human development, humanitarian and protection needs of Palestine refugees and promote stability in the Middle East. Today, the European Union is the largest multilateral provider of international assistance to Palestine refugees. This reliable and predictable support from the European Union enables UNRWA to provide core services to more than 5 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, including quality education for roughly half a million children and primary health care for more than 3.5 million patients. Collectively, the EU and its Member States are also among the largest contributors to the Agency’s humanitarian emergency appeals and projects in response to various crises and specific needs across the region. The partnership between the European Union and UNRWA has allowed millions of Palestine refugees to be better educated, live healthier lives, access employment opportunities and improve their living conditions, thus contributing to the development of the entire region.

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
+972 (0)54 240 2659
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
+972 (0)54 216 8295
+972 (0)258 90724
UNRWA launched the #DignityIsPriceless campaign in Gaza on 22 January 2018. © 2018 UNRWA Photo Rushdi Al Saraj
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