AMSTERDAM DECLARATIONS PLEDGE FOR MENTAL HEALTH, PSYCHO-SOCIAL SUPPORT IN CONFLICT COUNTRIES

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Jutha Gupah, Amsterdam

A coalition of 35 countries and international organisations, has committed to address the need of mental health and psycho-social support (MHPSS) in crisis situations. The high-level participants at the international MHPSS conference recently endorsed a declaration to this effect in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The countries that endorsed Amsterdam Conference Declaration (ACOD) include; Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Liberia, Uganda, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Burundi and Canada. Federal Government of Nigeria; had however rejected Netherland’s invitation attend the conference at Queen Maxima Hall of the KIT Royal Tropical Institute.

The rejection, according to its Embassy in Abuja, could lead to lost opportunities and means of addressing mental illness and decade long traumas in insurgency affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. Others comprise France, Germany, India, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Netherlands, the Palestinian Territory, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and Yemen. Organisations and unions that also made declarations on mental health included; the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), ICRC, IFRC, IOM, OECD, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNOCHA and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Ministers and high level representatives from countries and international organizations convened recently to address importance of mental health and psychosocial support needs of people affected by emergency situations and protracted crises.

They recall, among others that the right to the highest attainable standard of health as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was opened for signature in 2007. The World Health Organization’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, and the inclusion of mental health and well-being in the Sustainable Development Goals. They further recall the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit of 9 and 10 October 2018 in London and the Global Declaration on Achieving Equality for Mental Health in 21st Century; that was adopted during that Summit. The Amsterdam Declaration also underlined the right for everyone to enjoy the highest standard of physical and mental health. The Declaration also marked the commencement of a series of annual Global Ministerial Summits on mental health of which the Amsterdam Conference was the second.

Participants in the Amsterdam Conference stress that armed conflicts, natural disasters and other emergencies take an immense toll on people’s mental health and psychosocial well being. “It is impossible to quantify the full range of emotional, behavioral and psychosocial impacts of such situations on girls, boys, women and men, across the life course,” said Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands Foreign Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation. She said best estimates suggest that these experiences more than double the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions that impair daily functioning. Her words: “People with pre-existing mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities are disproportionately affected in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies, often experiencing exclusion, human rights violations and facing immense barriers in accessing protection, appropriate care and life-saving interventions.”

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The barriers, according to the participants, include physical, attitudinal, cultural, social, structural and financial barriers. “They might also be at higher risk for separation from caregivers or family members, as well as targeted violence, exploitation and abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence,” she noted. The countries, organisations and unions expressed their strong concern that the vast majority of people in need of adequate mental health and psycho-social support affected by humanitarian crises do not have access to evidence based, quality and human rights based services. According to them; mental health and psychosocial needs have thus far had low priority on humanitarian agendas at national and international levels and recognized the urgency of addressing these needs in humanitarian action.

Continuing, they said: “Mental health and psychosocial support is essential to restore people’s day-to-day functioning on all levels, to help those affected access life-saving services, to support resilience after an emergency and to rebuild peaceful societies. They also stress that mental health and psychosocial support needs to be given adequate attention in all sectors of humanitarian response with the aim of individual and collective recovery. “Affected persons and communities should be enabled to participate in the development and delivery of services for their benefit,” said the foreign minister. Participants recognize the importance of focusing on wellbeing and reducing stress in order to support peoples’ own coping mechanism and resilience. Speaking on implementation, the participants said: “The Inter-Agency Standing Committee Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Situations (2007) as well as the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Plan give guidance on what kind of supports should be made available. “Special attention should be paid to people who are vulnerable to violations of their basic human rights in crisis situations.”

“We agree to integrate and scale up mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian responses and recognize the need for evidence and innovation to accelerate responses at all levels of support. “We welcome the important work by the Technical Working Groups, consisting of humanitarians, policy makers in international organizations, researchers and scholars, mental health and psychosocial support experts, including people with lived experience. “This include the recommendations prepared in these documents, as summarized in Annex 1.

Participants agree to collectively assess progress on the recommendations by the Technical Working Groups at the next conference. “We look for opportunities to draw attention to the mental health and psychosocial needs of people affected by emergencies and, wherever feasible, add these needs to the humanitarian agenda at the national and international level.A coalition of 35 countries and international organisations, has committed to address the need of mental health and psycho-social support (MHPSS) in crisis situations. The high-level participants at the international MHPSS conference recently endorsed a declaration to this effect in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The countries that endorsed Amsterdam Conference Declaration (ACOD) include; Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Liberia, Uganda, Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, Burundi and Canada. Federal Government of Nigeria; had however rejected Netherland’s invitation attend the conference at Queen Maxima Hall of the KIT Royal Tropical Institute.

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The rejection, according to its Embassy in Abuja, could lead to lost opportunities and means of addressing mental illness and decade long traumas in insurgency affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. Others comprise France, Germany, India, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Netherlands, the Palestinian Territory, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and Yemen. Organisations and unions that also made declarations on mental health included; the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), ICRC, IFRC, IOM, OECD, UNFPA, UNHCR, UNICEF, UNOCHA and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Ministers and high level representatives from countries and international organizations convened recently to address importance of mental health and psychosocial support needs of people affected by emergency situations and protracted crises. They recall, among others that the right to the highest attainable standard of health as part of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which was opened for signature in 2007. The World Health Organization’s Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030, and the inclusion of mental health and well-being in the Sustainable Development Goals. They further recall the Global Ministerial Mental Health Summit of 9 and 10 October 2018 in London and the Global Declaration on Achieving Equality for Mental Health in 21st Century; that was adopted during that Summit. The Amsterdam Declaration also underlined the right for everyone to enjoy the highest standard of physical and mental health. The Declaration also marked the commencement of a series of annual Global Ministerial Summits on mental health of which the Amsterdam Conference was the second.

Participants in the Amsterdam Conference stress that armed conflicts, natural disasters and other emergencies take an immense toll on people’s mental health and psychosocial well being. “It is impossible to quantify the full range of emotional, behavioral and psychosocial impacts of such situations on girls, boys, women and men, across the life course,” said Sigrid Kaag, the Netherlands Foreign Minister for Trade and Development Cooperation. She said best estimates suggest that these experiences more than double the prevalence of depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions that impair daily functioning. Her words: “People with pre-existing mental health conditions and psychosocial disabilities are disproportionately affected in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies, often experiencing exclusion, human rights violations and facing immense barriers in accessing protection, appropriate care and life-saving interventions.” The barriers, according to the participants, include physical, attitudinal, cultural, social, structural and financial barriers. “They might also be at higher risk for separation from caregivers or family members, as well as targeted violence, exploitation and abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence,” she noted. The countries, organisations and unions expressed their strong concern that the vast majority of people in need of adequate mental health and psycho-social support affected by humanitarian crises do not have access to evidence based, quality and human rights based services. According to them; mental health and psychosocial needs have thus far had low priority on humanitarian agendas at national and international levels and recognized the urgency of addressing these needs in humanitarian action. Continuing, they said: “Mental health and psychosocial support is essential to restore people’s day-to-day functioning on all levels, to help those affected access life-saving services, to support resilience after an emergency and to rebuild peaceful societies. They also stress that mental health and psychosocial support needs to be given adequate attention in all sectors of humanitarian response with the aim of individual and collective recovery. “Affected persons and communities should be enabled to participate in the development and delivery of services for their benefit,” said the foreign minister. Participants recognize the importance of focusing on wellbeing and reducing stress in order to support peoples’ own coping mechanism and resilience. Speaking on implementation, the participants said: “The Inter-Agency Standing Committee Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Situations (2007) as well as the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Plan give guidance on what kind of supports should be made available. “Special attention should be paid to people who are vulnerable to violations of their basic human rights in crisis situations.” “We agree to integrate and scale up mental health and psychosocial support in humanitarian responses and recognize the need for evidence and innovation to accelerate responses at all levels of support. “We welcome the important work by the Technical Working Groups, consisting of humanitarians, policy makers in international organizations, researchers and scholars, mental health and psychosocial support experts, including people with lived experience. “This include the recommendations prepared in these documents, as summarized in Annex 1.

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Participants agree to collectively assess progress on the recommendations by the Technical Working Groups at the next conference. “We look for opportunities to draw attention to the mental health and psychosocial needs of people affected by emergencies and, wherever feasible, add these needs to the humanitarian agenda at the national and international level.

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