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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 17  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 212-216

Field-level coordination of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services for Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar

1 MD, MSc, ABPsyc, IMMHPS, Public Health and Nutrition Unit, UNHCR Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
2 MSc, MS, Public Health and Nutrition Unit, UNHCR Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
3 MD, PhD, Public Health Section, High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva, Switzerland

Correspondence Address:
Mohamed Elshazly
Public Health and Nutrition Unit, UNHCR Cox’s Bazar
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/INTV.INTV_38_19

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The areas around Ukhiya and Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh are the location of some of the world’s largest and most congested refugee settlements. The refugees have myriads of needs, and hundreds of different organisations provide assistance in an enormously complex and at times chaotic humanitarian operation. The humanitarian community in Bangladesh has identified the provision of effective mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services as a priority. However, the multi-sectoral nature of MHPSS can create challenges especially when it comes to coordination of services. A central coordination mechanism, the MHPSS working group, was established in December 2017. It is a sub-working group of the health sector and it has close ties with other sectors, mainly protection. This central MHPSS working group is attended mostly by mid-level and senior staff involved in policy and programming. We found that adding ‘field-level coordination’ with actors who work in the same geographical area helped to strengthen communication, cooperation and local coordination. It assists field-based staff to stay informed of each other’s work and can promote collaboration. For example, in the elaboration of the Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan to mitigate the effect of monsoon-related events in Cox’s Bazar, the field-level coordination mechanism proved very useful. Moreover, an area-based coordination mechanism can be a suitable platform to engage the affected communities in MHPSS coordination. This field report highlights the rationale, challenges and lessons learned from field-level coordination experience and argues that in large humanitarian settings establishing such area-based coordination mechanisms can have a clear added value and should be routinely considered.

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