Critical Mental Health Resources for South Sudanese Refugees in Ethiopia

Nyaruach is a mother of five living in the Tierkidi refugee camp in Gambella, Ethiopia. Having fled the conflict in South Sudan, Nyaruach and her children moved in with her sister and her four children in March.  The family left their home with very little and depends on humanitarian resources for shelter, food and health care. Nyaruach’s eight-year-old daughter Nyamuot was diagnosed with epilepsy in July after suffering from the mental illness for two years. Epilepsy causes Nyamuot to suddenly fall down, lose consciousness and shake her limbs if someone touches her or comes close to her so her family won’t allow her to go anywhere alone. She was unable to play with her friends and also had to stop attending school.

“I used to love to play with my friends. But now, since I have a fear of suddenly falling and losing consciousness, I prefer to be alone.” says Nyamuot.

International Medical Corps works in Tierkidi to provide mental health case management services and collaborates directly with the Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA) to integrate mental health into primary health care services. Our teams are also providing mental health training for ARRA health workers and Community Outreach Agents on common mental illnesses (including epilepsy), psychological first aid and community mobilization. The course teaches skills and knowledge needed to conduct assessments and treat people with mental health conditions.

One of International Medical Corps’ Community Outreach Agents was able to provide psychosocial support for Nyamuot and give her medication to manage her epilepsy.  As a result, her health has improved and she is returning to her old self.

“I was thinking that there is no way to get out of this problem. Thanks to International Medical Corps’ program that provided us with mental illness knowledge,” Nyaruach says. “Nyamuot even started to help me with household chores and can now carry her younger sister. I now have a hope to send my daughter back to school.”

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