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How the Eldryd Parry Fellowship is supporting health worker wellbeing in Tigray

5 July 2024


The recent war in Tigray, Ethiopia, has resulted in a sharp increase in reports of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases, further compounded by severe resource shortages and the destruction of essential services. As a mental health professional working in the one-stop centre for survivors of sexual violence, I have witnessed firsthand the profound impact of these circumstances on frontline workers. The traumatic nature of survivors’ detailed recollections, combined with the scarcity of resources, has led to significant distress and secondary trauma among health workers.

It is evident that health workers providing SGBV services urgently require dedicated mental health support to navigate the emotional toll of their work. It is imperative that measures be put in place to address their mental wellbeing and build their resilience as they continue to serve their communities in the face of such challenging conditions. As there is only a limited number of professionals and a gap in the mental health provision it is essential to develop and implement tailored approaches that prioritize the mental health and resilience of health workers offering SGBV services.

This project, funded by the Eldryd Parry Fellowship, is aimed at nurturing resilience of health workers by developing a self-care handbook and cascading training for frontline workers providing support to survivors of sexual violence. We believe by prioritizing the well-being of these frontline workers, we can ensure that they are equipped to continue providing crucial support to survivors while safeguarding their mental health.

Collaboration has been a vital aspect of this project, as we have been working closely with the team from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), Medics Academy and the Health Care Leadership Academy. Regular meetings and discussions have allowed us to share insights, exchange ideas, and learn from each other’s experiences. This collaborative effort has strengthened our approach and ensured that we are addressing the needs of health workers in the most effective way possible.

The team is conducting a thorough needs assessment through questionnaires and interviews to understand the challenges faced by frontliners. Productive collaborations with government stakeholders are ensuring support for the project, and a comprehensive handbook is being finalized to provide valuable resources to frontliners. Training sessions are planned, with assessments to evaluate their effectiveness, and the data collected will be presented at the THET Conference in November.

In line with our commitment to raising awareness about mental health, we have planned a campaign to coincide with Mental Health Day in October. This campaign aims to shed light on the challenges faced by health workers in Tigray and emphasize the importance of supporting their mental wellbeing. By engaging the community raising awareness, and promoting self-care practices, we hope to create a supportive environment that encourages health workers to prioritise their mental health.

We are also thrilled that our work has been recognized on an international level. We have been granted the opportunity to present our findings and experiences at the SVRI Conference in South Africa in November 2024. This conference provides a platform for sharing knowledge, best practices, and innovative approaches to address sexual and gender-based violence. We are excited to showcase the impact of our project and contribute to the global discussion on supporting health workers in post-conflict settings.

We continue to move forward with Nurturing Resilience, an essential endeavour that recognises the challenges faced by health workers in Tigray, Ethiopia, and strives to support their mental wellbeing. We are confident that our efforts will make a meaningful impact on the lives of health workers and survivors alike. Together, we can build a future where health workers are empowered, resilient, and able to provide the care that survivors deserve.

This post was written by:

Kokob Gebru Kidanu - Eldryd Parry Fellow


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