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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 160-168

Supporting maternal mental health of Rohingya refugee women during the perinatal period to promote child health and wellbeing: a field study in Cox’s Bazar

1 Clinical Psychologist and PhD in Social Psychology, Previous Mental Health and Care Practices Advisor for Action Against Hunger, France
2 PhD Scientist in Nutrition and Clinical Services Division (NCSD) and Sr Consultant Physician, Dhaka Hospital, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh
3 Clinical Psychologist, Gender-Based Violence Coordinator for Action Against Hunger, Bangladesh
4 Clinical Psychologist and PhD in Clinical Psychology, Mental Health Care Practices, Gender and Protection Senior Advisor for Action Against Hunger, France

Correspondence Address:
Francesca Corna
56 rue Jean Jacques Rousseau 75001, Paris
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/INTV.INTV_28_19

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In humanitarian crises, such as the Rohingya situation in Bangladesh, maternal and child health may be strongly affected. Maternal mental health is a well-recognised key factor for child survival, development and health. Promoting maternal mental health during the perinatal period, especially in emergencies, contributes to the prevention of child mortality, morbidity and psychological distress. Despite this, few humanitarian psychosocial interventions have been evaluated to measure their effect on maternal mental health and child care. In 2012, Action Against Hunger in collaboration with the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh, evaluated the effect of a psychosocial support groups intervention on 260 pregnant Rohingya women, living in the registered camps of Cox’s Bazar. A set of questionnaires (including MMSE, CES-D scale and Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem scale) was administered to participants to measure the improvement on mental health and childcare knowledge after a three-month psychosocial intervention. Maternal wellbeing and childcare knowledge improved significantly over the three months of intervention. Findings suggest psychosocial intervention can be effective despite the chronic stressful conditions of the refugees in the camps. This study reinforces the importance of community-based interventions promoting mental health in contexts of chronic crisis and contributes to the research discussion on the impact of maternal mental health and childcare promotion programming.
Key implications for practice
  • Supporting maternal mental health during the perinatal period has a positive impact on women's wellbeing and is also a key factor for good childcare, children's wellbeing and early childhood development. In an emergency situation such as the Rohingya crisis in Bangladesh, promoting maternal mental health is an effective way of preventing difficulties during the perinatal period that may aggravate family, maternal and children's wellbeing.
  • Psychosocial support groups appear to provide an effective methodology to work with refugees on mental health and childcare promotion, since refugees are often isolated, with disrupted social support and with limited access to external resources.
  • Reinforcing women's internal and external resources through group support helps to improve their self-esteem, which is a key factor for general wellbeing.

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