Strengthening Psychosocial Work

Project description

Title: Psychosocial Support for Syrian and Iraqi Refugees and Internally Displaced People
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) Special Initiative "Tackling the root causes of displacement – reintegrating refugees"
Country: Jordan
Overall term: 2015 to 2018



Around 6.6 million Syrians have been internally displaced since the outbreak of civil war in 2011.. A further 4.8 million have fled to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. Meanwhile, longstanding violent conflict in Iraq has been compounded by the activities of the so-called ‘Islamic State’, which have resulted in about 3.9 million more internally displaced persons.

In addition to material hardship, refugees and displaced persons across the region also suffer from the psychosocial effects of conflict. For many years, people have lived in fear and suffered losses, the effects of which persist even after they have fled their home country. They often live in poverty and on the margins of society in their host countries, which threatens their psychosocial wellbeing. Specialists such as psychologists, psychotherapists and social workers who have professional skills to support and help them to overcome traumatic experiences are scarce in host communities. .More than 50 actors from international organisations are engaged in the field of mental health and psychosocial wellbeing in the crisis region.


German governmental and non-governmental actors across the Middle East cooperate to promote mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) for Syrian and Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons, using a common framework of gender- & context- sensitive standards.



On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH supports the psychosocial wellbeing of people in Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. GIZ networks with German governmental and non-governmental actors across the Middle East to promote the sharing of professional experience at the local level. GIZ is engaged in areas such as staff care for people working with refugees, exchange of good practice in psychosocial work, and support for teachers who work with students who have experienced violence.

GIZ bundles the know-how of a range of organisations and combines it with the international experts’ existing body of knowledge on mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS). GIZ also ensures that this knowledge is available to all actors by organising exchange meetings for local and international experts in the region, and developing a web-based knowledge platform. This knowledge management system provides aid workers with access to key information on psychosocial work with refugees. For example, the platform includes information on quality standards and best practice in the area of psychosocial work in fragile contexts. The information makes aid workers’ jobs easier, and increases their professionalism.

Learning materials on mental health and psychosocial support are provided in German, English, and Arabic. Additionally, the platform publishes the activities of the actors involved, enabling action to be coordinated and effective use to be made of resources. Refugees, internally displaced persons, and host communities benefit particularly from this greater efficiency.

The project is part of the BMZ special initiative ‘Tackling the Root Causes of Displacement, Reintegrating Refugees’, which provides short-term support to refugees and their host communities. In the long-term, sustainable measures are designed to eliminate the structural causes of displacement, such as social inequality and food insecurity. The project is helping to improve psychosocial support for refugees and internally displaced persons.


When the work began in late 2015, the project was cooperating with around 20 organisations across the Middle East. Since then, the number of partners has grown steadily. After just nine months, GIZ has already reached hundreds of professionals who support refugees and internally displaced persons in a wide variety of ways. Many of them are directly confronted with human suffering on a daily basis. To protect their mental health, the project has worked with practitioners and researchers to devise a tailored pilot scheme in which peer support structures boost the ability of aid workers to protect their own welfare at work and to find support within their teams and organisations..

As part of the first specialist exchange of knowledge and experience within GIZ’s regional project, more than 50 actors working in the area of psychosocial health in the context of the Syria and Iraq crisis gathered in Berlin in June 2016 to discuss issues such as effective networking, a range of approaches to MHPSS, and support for local staff. Furthermore, a research project involving three German universities started in July, which will develop context-adapted peer support models and pilot them in the Middle East.

A conference on monitoring and evaluating MHPSS with 75 participants from eight countries took place in October 2016 in Amman. Different tools to measure the success and potential dangers of working in this field were compared and discussed.


A conceptual framework on what constitutes high-quality MHPSS work with Syrian and Iraqi refugees has been jointly developed by a number of governmental and non-governmental practitioners. The framework can be used by both implementing agencies and donors.