IOM Reiterates Importance of Addressing Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19 on Displaced and Migrant Populations

MHPSS staff and volunteers travel on foot, by bicycle and by rickshaw through the refugee camp to bring awareness-raising messages to the community. May 2020. Photo: Mashrif Abdullah/IOM

Geneva – As top humanitarian stakeholders gather virtually this week to discuss key issues under the auspices of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will be shedding light on the critical importance of addressing issues related to mental health in the COVID-19 context, particularly related to displaced persons and migrants.

On the sidelines of the ECOSOC’s Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS), IOM will co-host a high-level event with the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Friday, 12 June at 0900 EDT (1300 GMT), entitled “Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Displaced and Migrant Populations during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond.”

The 90-minute discussion (Webex registration required) will bring together key representatives from the United Nations and non-profit organizations to analyze the different ways the pandemic is placing psychosocial stressors on the most vulnerable, particularly migrants and people displaced by conflict or natural disasters, and exchange on possible top-down and community-based solutions.

“There is often a lack of urgency about the provision of mental health and psychosocial support during crisis situations,” said IOM Director General António Vitorino.

“But mental health is not a luxury, it is the backbone of what makes us human. It allows each and every one of us, including migrants and displaced persons, to act as positive, active contributors to our societies and I call on all decision-makers to ensure mental health actions are part of an inclusive, accessible public health response to the pandemic offered to migrants regardless of their legal status.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is deeply affecting the well-being of people all over the world, including migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced persons. They disproportionally experience the impacts of the pandemic due to their weakened social support structures, bleak socio-economic prospects, unequal access to health care and social services, precarious housing, tenuous living and working conditions, vulnerability to misinformation and xenophobia, and risks of exploitation and abuse.

As governments adopted measures to curb the spread of the disease, many migrants have found themselves jobless overnight, quarantined, stranded during their journeys, separated from their families and unable to return home, and trapped in dormitories or camps where adequate physical distancing is impossible.

All of this has created and continues to fuel feelings of uncertainty, distress, fear, anger and hopelessness.

With Friday’s event, IOM reiterates its call to invest in mental well-being and to ensure that migrants and displaced persons are included in governments’ plans for mental and psychosocial support provision moving forward.

The event will be moderated by UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming and, along with DG Vitorino will include UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Ethiopia and top representatives from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the Psycho-Social Services and Training Institute in Egypt, World Vision International, and the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Working Group in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Note:  Registration and attendance via Webex are free and open to all. The event can only be attended following registration and will not be available for online streaming afterwards. 

For more information, please contact Safa Msehli IOM Geneva, Tel.: +41 79 403 5526, Email:  

Yasmina Guerda IOM Geneva, Tel.:  +41 22 717 9613 – M. +41 79 363 17 99, Email: