NIHR Global Health Research Group: A package of care for the mental health of survivors of violence in Afghanistan

HAWCA is the Afghanistan partner organisation for an ambitious project to develop a comprehensive, adaptable package of care to improve the mental health of survivors of violence against women, modern slavery, and civil conflict in India, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan.

In collaboration with academic partners in the UK (University College London (UCL), King’s College London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine), and organisational partners in Sri Lanka and India, HAWCA is helping to develop a package of care to support the mental health of women and children experiencing violence in Afghanistan. This involves mapping existing mental health services across five provinces, talking to service providers and representational groups, and working with users, their families, policy actors and faith groups to identify needs and potential solutions.

This project has the potential to bring about real changes for women and children affected by different forms of violence including violence against women, modern slavery and civil conflict. Violence against women affects 42% of women in South Asia, and modern slavery (defined as forced marriage, forced labour and commercial sexual exploitation) affects 40 million people worldwide, with the greatest burden in Asia. Conflict in Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, amidst discriminatory gender norms, has exposed a majority of women to abuse, trauma and poor mental health. An individual who has experienced these forms of violence is more likely to experience mental illness, particularly depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal thinking.

Our aim with the project is to reduce the prevalence and severity of these mental health conditions. This might be through finding local strategies for delivering appropriate psychological therapies, and a range of non-clinical responses includes crisis counselling, shelter, legal and financial negotiation, social work, and community support networks.

The award is part of a £40m investment by NIHR into world class research through its Global Health Research (GHR) Programme, focusing on research with measurable benefits to patients and the public in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

This research was commissioned by the National Institute of Health Research using Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding.
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR): improving the health and wealth of the nation through research.
Established by the Department of Health and Social Care, the NIHR:

  •  funds high quality research to improve health
  •  trains and supports health researchers
  •  provides world-class research facilities
  •  works with the life sciences industry and charities to benefit all
  •  involves patients and the public at every step

For further information, visit the NIHR website www.nihr.ac.uk