Mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of Eritrean refugees in Africa and the Middle East


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Date:               Tuesday 24 May 2016

Time:               16.00 – 17.30 GMT/UTC


Over the past years, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans have fled their country. Most of these refugees and asylum seekers reside in the neighbouring countries: there are an estimated 130,000 Eritreans in Ethiopia and 110,000 in Sudan. In attempts to reach safety and a better life thousands left Eritrea to move to North Africa and the Middle East, in strenuous journeys, often through networks of smugglers and traffickers. This resulted in sizable populations of Eritreans in Egypt (around 4,000) and Israel (around 30,000). Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers faced multiple hardships on their journey including severe human rights violations such as sexual violence and torture. These experiences are compounded by daily struggle for survival in refugee settlements and in urban settings.

This webinar attempts to present an overview of the issues around mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of Eritreans along the transit route from Eritrea to the North. What are the major mental health and psychosocial concerns of Eritreans? How can they be best addressed? How can the strengths of the Eritrean refugees be mobilized?


  •  Moderator - Peter Ventevogel
  •  Introduction
  • Promoting Self-help (presentation of a Self Help Guide for Eritrean refugees) - Diddy Kahn and Sr Aziza
  • Strengthening Family and Community support for Eritrean refugees in Egypt (Experiences of Eritrean psychosocial workers of PSTIC in Cairo) - Jemalat Jaffer and Nancy Baron
  • Group psychotherapy for Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia - Christine Nimusiima
  • Discussion

About the presenters

Nancy BARON, PhD, is the founder and director of the Psycho-Social Services and Training Institute in Cairo (PSTIC), a community based refugee project for MHPSS, health and protection Since 2009, PSTIC trains and facilitates refugees in Egypt to assist their communities. Before founding PSTIC, Nancy worked with for multiple UN agencies, international and local NGOs in conflict-affected countries around the world, providing consultation, assessment, training, programme design and development, research and evaluation for community and family focused psychosocial, mental health and peace building initiatives.

Jemalat JAFFER was born and raised in Asmara, Eritrea. She holds a BA in Business Management. In 2007, she came as a refugee to Cairo, Egypt where she worked as a pre-school teacher with refugee and Egyptian children. Jemalat made a career transition when she began to work with the Psycho-Social Services and Training Institute in Cairo (PSTIC). She started as a community volunteer in 2011 and was subsequently trained to become a Psychosocial Worker. She later became a Team Leader and is now the Psycho-Social Program Deputy of PSTIC.

Diddy Mymin KAHN, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and trauma specialist in humanitarian aid and intervention. She has over 22 years of experience working in the UK, Hong Kong, Israel, Sierra Leone, and Haiti as a psychologist, supervisor, trainer and group facilitator. She has been involved in assisting African refugees in Tel Aviv since 2009, managing a psychosocial service and co-founding an arts-based women’s empowerment NGO for refugees who survived trafficking, torture, and gender-based-violence. She also is a professional advisor for an international humanitarian NGO, IsraAID.

Sister Azezet Habtezghi KIDANE (known as Sister Aziza) originally from Eritrea, is a member of the Comboni Missionary Sisters from Eritrea. From 2010, she has acted as an advocate, counsellor, nurse and spiritual leader of the African refugee community in Israel. In particular she has focused her attention on the enslavement, sexual exploitation, and torture of asylum seekers in the Sinai desert.  In 2012, she was honored by the US State Department as a ‘Hero of our time -Acting to End Modern Slavery’ in recognition of her efforts to combat human trafficking.

Christine NIMUSIIMA is a Clinical Mental Health Counsellor (CMHC) with experience in offering psychotherapy to a variety of populations. Currently, Christine is a psychotherapist and trainer with the Center for Victims of Trauma (CVT) in Ethiopia, providing counselling to Eritrean refugees, and victims of torture and trauma. Prior to joining CVT, she worked as a Senior Clinical Psychologist for TPO Uganda supervising mental health and psychosocial support activities in different refugee settlements. She also served as a part-time lecturer and clinical supervisor (Makerere University), research assistant on Gender-Based Violence (Phillips University, Marburg), and as programme officer for HIV/AIDS prevention (Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevolkerung – DSW) in Uganda. Christine is a Ford Foundation International Fellow.

Peter VENTEVOGEL is the Senior Mental Health Officer of UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency in Geneva.

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Humanitarian and conflict health
Human rights
Empowerment and service user involvement
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