Little Amal emphasises the importance of mental health for refugees

Little Amal is a 3.5 meter high doll that symbolises a 10-year-old Syrian refugee girl. Little Amal has made a remarkable journey from Gaziantep, near the Turkey-Syria border, to Manchester in the United Kingdom. On her travels she also called awareness for the mental health of refugee children. This week, she arrived in The Hague. 

Little Amal's arrival in The Hague

Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) should be part of  our crisis and humanitarian response, so that people can take care of themselves and others again. This is just as important as providing food, water, and shelter. If there is no attention and care for the lived experiences of refugees, it is difficult for them to rebuild their lives. Mental and psychosocial needs are often less visible than physical needs. But they can be just as life-threatening. Research has proven that people in crisis situations benefit from targeted mental health and psychosocial support. It can save lives. MHPSS consists largely of the treatment and prevention of psychological disorders. Examples include depression, anxiety, and PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Children and young people are much more affected.

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation is committed to MHPSS on a national and international level. Little Amal was welcomed today by Marriet Schuurman, Director of Stability and Humanitarian Aid (DSH) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Little Amal asked for more attention to be given to the psychosocial conditions of refugee children during the High Level Officials Meeting of the UNHCR, held in Geneva later this year. She presented Marriet with a letter with this request, as well as a photobook of her journey. In return Marriet gave Amal  ‘My hero is you’, a children’s storybook that helps children around the world to cope with the difficulties and anxieties caused by the  COVID-19 pandemic. Amal ended her visit with a ‘Team-up’ session with Dutch schoolchildren. A programme that addresses urgent needs for refugee children.