ARQ International in Action

ARQ International was active in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi this autumn. In Congo we supported the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu. In Burundi we were able to do a follow up on the trainings we did earlier this year.

In Burundi we are supporting a wider national mental health care structure. In the past few years we have worked with the national psychiatric centre CNPK in the capital Bujumbura to train 18 master trainers. These master trainers have supported the development and knowledge around psychosocial support of over 200 health care providers who are working in remote and hard to reach regions in the country. After trainings in 2018 and early 2019, we were able to offer another training this autumn.

Democratic Republic of Congo
In East Congo, near the border with Rwanda, we have been supporting Panzi Hospital of Nobel laureate Dr. Mukwege for over two years already. After a successful training this summer around trauma care for children we went back this November to support nurses in the hospital around self-care. The mental health of these nurses is influenced by the many horrifying stories they have to hear and the mental and physical traumas they have to treat. Following the training we have made a self care booklet which will be distributed around 750 local and mobile staff in the region.

War Trauma Foundation becomes ARQ International

War Trauma Foundation continues as ARQ International, the international department of ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre. ARQ is the world’s largest expert centre focused on the psychological effects of crisis and conflict, for individuals and communities. ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre has an impressive trackrecord in the clinical support and recognition of veterans, refugees and survivors of the Second World War.

“The integration with ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre is an opportunity for War Trauma Foundation,” says Dr. Annelieke Drogendijk, director of ARQ International. “ARQ employs a large number of experts and professionals with a great deal of knowledge and expertise around prevention of psychotrauma following crisis and conflict. Now we are ARQ International, they are our colleagues and we can work even closer with them. The merger helps us to do more and better work.”

With better access to the expertise of ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre the specialist knowledge of ARQ International will also broaden and include more themes, such as sexual violence and prevention of radicalisation. In the future ARQ International will focus more on the technical support of humanitarian aid organisations, NGOs, governments and universities.

ARQ International stands for an evidence-based approach, conducting research and developing and adapting mental health and psychosocial methodologies, in close collaboration with universities, research institutions and implementing organisations. Dr. Drogendijk: “We raise awareness, share knowledge and develop expertise around mental health and psychosocial support. Together with local professionals and non-professionals who support people affected by war, conflict and disaster, we can help them to rebuild their lives.”

Donate through Friends of Foundation
ARQ International – as War Trauma Foundation – has been working closely with ARQ for over 7 years. As War Trauma Foundation is no longer an independent foundation from January 1, 2020, you can donate through the foundation Friends of the ARQ Foundation. The foundation is tax exempt. Details you can find here.

Successful Annual Meeting on ‘Mental Health and Psychosocial Support’

Directly following the MHPSS Summit of the Dutch Ministry, ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre hosted the Annual Meeting of the Inter Agency Standing Committee on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Reference Group (IASC MHPSS RG). An excellent opportunity to introduce ARQ to 70 influential professionals in the international field. 

The IASC brings together professionals involved in mental health and psychosocial support in emergencies from NGO’s and UN organisations – and some donors - from all over the world. It is an important platform in the field of MHPSS to meet, update each other and be involved in global decision making on ways to improve care.

ARQ International (formerly War Trauma Foundation) has been a member of this group for many years, but it was the first time we were the principal host of the meeting. During the two day meeting there were many presentations on global developments in MHPSS, and around the new to be created MHPSS Surge Capacity Roster and a Minimum Service Package for MHPSS in Humanitarian Settings. There were also updates from working groups around children & families, community based care, disaster risk reduction, peacebuilding and gender based violence and many more topics. A workplan for the coming year for the group has been drafted, and next year’s meeting will be held in Uganda.

Summit Mind the Mind Now draws out political commitment for mental health

On October 7 and 8 the Netherlands hosted the Mind the Mind Now Summit, organized by the Dutch Ministry of foreign Affairs and Minister Sigrid Kaag. The Summit was completely focused on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Humanitarian Settings. War Trauma Foundation for the first time presented itself as ARQ International, the international hub of ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre.

At the summit’s marketplace ARQ International co-organised a booth on behalf of the STRENGTHS project for Syrian Refugees. The booth was focused on scalable psychological interventions for conflict and emergency affected people in humanitarian settings. During the summit different experts from ARQ and the ARQ International network were present, some of whom had been part of working groups preparing the conference. ARQs Janetta Bosch and Trudy Mooren occupied the friendship bench to ask people how they were after a full day on their feet. Colleagues Elise Griede and Sadaf Kaykha cornered Sir Lowcock, UN Under Secretary and Minister Kaag at the booth.

The summit closing included the presentation of a resolution from the Ministry to prioritise Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in humanitarian settings. An impressive line of ministers from many different corners of the world (a.o. Middle East, Europe, Africa, Asia) pledged their support to this. This summit was an important step to bring the importance of mental health and wellbeing of emergency affected populations into on the radar of politics, UN bodies and donors around the world. The next ministerial conference on MHPSS will take place in 2020 in France.

Advocacy for mental health

War Trauma Foundation is increasingly active in promoting the need to improve mental health care in humanitarian emergencies. The High Level Summit on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings – which the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting in Amsterdam in October – is already generating extra attention for the topic.

War Trauma co-organised part of the one-day conference on Psycho Social Support in the Middle East on June 6. War Trauma had invited Dr. Bayan Rasul of the Emma Organisation from the Kurdish region in Iraq to present and discuss her experiences with the treatment of Yezidi women and girls. Emma is supporting 600 Yezidi women who were captured by IS insurgents. Many of these women were victims of conflict related sexual violence. The report of the conference you can find here (English only)

Earlier this year War Trauma was the host of a meeting of the CRSV Network, which focuses on Conflict Related sexual Violence. Based on our experience supporting the mental health care and psychosocial support offered to survivors of sexual violence at the Emma Organisation in Kurdistan and Panzi Hospital in DRCongo, we provide specific insights to the network. Network organisations also indicated how lawyers providing legal support to survivors of sexual violence are struggling with their own mental health.

Ahead of the High Level Summit – which will mainly be for ministers and government experts – War Trauma will host the Inter Agency Standing Committee on MHPSS (IASC). The aim of the IASC is to advocate for the implementation of the IASC Guidelines for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings (IASC, 2007). During the meeting the IASC members will discuss what countries can do more to improve the mental health care response in cases of humanitarian emergencies.

Queen of the Netherlands visits ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre

Queen Maxima of the Netherlands last may visited ARQ National Psychotrauma Centre, which War Trauma Foundation is a part of. During the work visit the work of ARQ Centrum ’45 around the treatment of psychotrauma had special focus as well as the work of ARQ IVP and ARQ Impact, but there also was some brief attention for our work in humanitarian emergencies.

Queen Maxima regularly talks to veterans and different emergency workers and is very interested in the treatment of psychotrauma and other psychosocial issues. One of the treatments demonstrated was the 3MDR method in which a client walks on a treadmill while looking at images that remind him or her of the traumatising event. At the same time the practitioner discusses the events with the client.

In this news item you can see a short report of the visit (in Dutch).

Towards Peace of Mind – Annual Magazine

We are happy to share our annual magazine. In the 2018 magazine entitled “Towards Peace of Mind” lots of information about how we support the mission of Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Mukwege. In his Panzi-hospital in Bukavu, East Congo, women and children victims of sexual violence are being treated physically and psychologically. WarTrauma  supports local nurses to give even better psychosocial support.

In addition we share the developments around our scientific journal Intervention which is now available online as open access magazine, and the experiences of the participants from our training in Sudan.

Follow this link to download the magazine Towards Peace of Mind or read it online here

The myth of the 1-day training: the effectiveness of psychosocial support capacity-building during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

Psychological First Aid trainings are too short to be effective for most people without knowledge about psychological support is one of the conclusions of the extensive scientific research carried out by WarTrauma in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In the aftermath of the ebola epidemic in Western Africa WarTrauma conducted the research together with Queen Margaret University (UK), University of Makeni (Sierra Leone) and LiCORMH (Liberia). The results have now been published in the open access journal Global Mental Health.

Codeveloped by WarTrauma, Psychological First Aid is a method which is used in conflict and disaster settings worldwide. The methodology aims to be an easy accessible training for non-professionals to provide access to psychological aid to as many people as possible. During the ebola epidemic in West Africa trainings in Psychological First Aid were given to medical personnel and local aid workers put their own lives at risk by taking care of ill and dead people.

In a randomised control trial in Sierra Leone and Liberia we conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 PFA trainers; 36 individuals who participated in PFA training; and 12 key informants involved in planning and implementing the PFA roll-out. Results showed that most trainers received only a short training, without any information on training skills. As a result their trainings were of varying quality. People who had been trained by them in general were good listeners, but their responses varied and were not according to the principles of effective psychological aid.

The abstract and the complete article you can read here: The myth of the 1-day training: the effectiveness of psychosocial support capacity-building during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa

The research project was funded by Elrha’s Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) Programme, which aims to improve health outcomes by strengthening the evidence base for public health interventions in humanitarian crises. The R2HC programme is funded by the UK Government (DFID), the Wellcome Trust, and the UK National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

MHPSS for Young Entrepreneurs in Jordan

Since the start of the Syrian conflict, Jordan has allowed tens of thousands of refugees to stay in their country. Many of these refugees have been seeking employment or been setting up their own businesses. War Trauma supported SPARK to pilot a training for entrepreneurs to deal with their own stress and possible traumatic experiences of their employees.

SPARK is an international organization enabling access to higher education for the underprivileged and creating jobs through entrepreneurship support. With a focus on the Middle East and North Africa, SPARK realized the opportunities and challenges refugee streams in the region offer for businesses. Bringing new skills and capacity in the region offers an opportunity for local economies.

At the same time refugees fleeing war and conflict may suffer post traumatic stress symptoms which influence their functioning. Dealing with these challenges is important for Jordan employers as well as for the refugees themselves.

During the training in Jordan last February the focus was on the development of training material related to work ethics in general and with a psychological component. SPARK is preparing a 10 day business training course for about 400 participants and they want enter aspects of work ethics, staff care and psychosocial elements in their training.

In addition, Spark aims to support their own staff to provide trainings on work ethics, staff care and MHPSS.

Supporting Basic Mental Health Care in Burundi

“Many people here in Burundi spend their little money on traditional healers because they do not understand mental health problems,” according to a community worker in the Cibitoke region: “We will inform them that there are other ways to be helped. We will talk to them. Now we can do an evaluation and decide if they need to see a doctor.”

WarTrauma trainers spend four weeks of training in Burundi this spring. Following a training of trainers in 2018, we had the opportunity to train 2 more trainers and support the trainers of last year with a refresher to become more independent. The 12 trainers of 2018 together trained 150 people in three regions in February and March.

Burundi has faced many crises in the past half century. Since its independence in 1962 the country has been experiencing civil war, genocide and instability. Most Burundians at one point in their lives have been refugees or internally displaced. Substance abuse is a significant problem. As a result many Burundians are suffering from traumatic stress due to their experiences often in combination with extreme poverty.

At the same time the country has only one psychiatrist working in the public health field and due to poor infrastructure the one psychiatric hospital in the capital is out of reach for most. Most people instead turn to traditional healers for their mental health issues.

WarTrauma believes the training of the community workers and basic health staff will contribute to a decentralisation of care and to ensure more people have access to mental health care. In addition, improved understanding of mental health issues can support the rehabilitation into society of mentally ill people.