Psychosocial Support Network

  • South Africa


Catholic Welfare and Development

Jesuit Refugee Service

Refugee Social Services

Refugee Aid Organization


Date program started:



  • Improve the support given to refugees with psychosocial and mental health issues
  • Create greater links between refugee-supporting organisations


  • Improve health care providers knowledge of the specific issues facing refugees and asylum seekers
  • Foster greater collaboration between UNHCR and its implementing partners
  • Train staff in health and social issues facing refugees in South Africa, such as trauma and social stigma

Targeted population:

  • Refugees with mental health issues
  • Staff in refugee-supporting organisations, including social workers

Challenge addressed:

  • Lack of interaction between organisations working with refugees
  • Lack of staff training on providing psychosocial support

Program description:

  • In South Africa, national legislation ensures that refugees have access to to the public health care system
  • Mental health care however is not given first priority
  • Providers do not typically have a strong understanding of the specific issues affecting refugees and asylum seekers, including trauma, language and cultural barriers, all of which can negatively access their ability to access services
  • Refugees and asylum-seekers also face xenophobia in South Africa, in particular refugee women
  • UNHCR and its implementing partners (Refugee Social Services in Durban, Jesuit Refugee Services in Johannesburg and Pretoria, Refugee Aid Organization in Pretoria and Catholic Welfare and Development in Cape Town) developed a psychosocial support networks to better provide direct support to refugees and asylum seekers
  • The networks have provided direct material and legal assistance, as well as mental health training for staff
  • In 2009, UNHCR organisaed two workshops targeting social workers involved in refugee and asylum seeker social assistance
  • These workshops made participants familiar with the particular psychosocial issues facing refugees and asylum seekers, as well as specific counseling skills, self-care strategies and other relevant resources

Impact on targeted population:

Conditions required:

  • Access to public health care for refugees and asylum seekers


UNHCR – Operational Guidance Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Programming for Refugee Operations

UNHCR – Psychosocial Support for Refugees and Asylum Seekers in South Africa

Department of Home Affairs, South Africa – Refugee Status and Asylum

Our impact

  • 3700

    refugees have better access to education and livelihood opportunities

  • 40

    countries in which our partner NGOs are implementing solutions

  • 490

    refugee children benefit from mathematics, english, art and sports classes

  • 700

    women can now support their families

  • 650

    refugees have access to critical healthcare and safety information

Get Involved

We’ve accomplished so much, but the growing urgency of refugee issues in cities means we have a lot more to do and we can’t do it alone. Support the refugee communities that need it most.

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