Addis Ababa: More than 6,500 Ethiopian migrant returnees received mental health and psychosocial support from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the last five years, with funding from the European Union (EU). Of these, 478 were referred to government and non-government psychiatric facilities for specialized care. 

IOM also collaborated with Integrated Service on Health and Development Organization (ISHDO), a local nongovernmental organization, to provide community based psychosocial support to 300 returnees and members of the community in Silte Zone of Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s Regional state. The partnership further provided beneficiaries with livelihood opportunities through irrigation-based farming.  

Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) are among the three dimensions of reintegration assistance IOM is providing to vulnerable returnee migrants, along with economic and social support. 
Migrants often begin their journey with high hopes and aspirations. Their families also hope and expect that their lives will change from remittances. Migrants and their families sell assets to pay for the journey or borrow money from close relatives or local lenders.

Migrants’ necessities and hopes are so strong that they attempt the perilous journey, hoping that somehow, they will escape the danger that lay ahead. However, the reality is, they are vulnerable and exposed to all sorts of protection risks and human rights violations throughout their journey, often resulting in a range of physical, mental and psychosocial problems.

The violations and risks include harsh weather conditions, hunger, asphyxiation, days walk across deserts and forests. Often, they face abuse and additional ransom by smugglers. Returning migrants are most vulnerable because they return empty-handed and find themselves in a deeper social and economic problem.  

 “Mental and Psychosocial needs of returnees must be addressed prior to other forms of reintegration support. Without mental wellbeing, returnees cannot reintegrate and function in their communities well,” said Sara Basha, Programme Coordinator of the EU-IOM Joint Initiative programme in Ethiopia. 

Upon arrival, returnees receive counselling at the IOM transit center in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, before heading to their communities of origin.  After their return, health professionals from local health facilities provide counselling to returnees in their localities.

“Strengthening MHPSS capacity of government partners and other service providers is vital. The EU-IOM Joint Initiative, in this regard, provided series of trainings to MHPSS service providers and is currently finalizing the development of a national mental health and psychosocial support training manual and facilitators guide.” 

To date, 154 service providers have been trained while 101 service providers in Oromia, SNNP, Amhara and Addis Ababa city administration have received training as Training of Trainers.  Moving forward, the training manual and facilitator’s guide is expected to be a compulsory module for MHPSS practitioners’ certification.

IOM’s assistance to migrant returnees was funded by the European Union through the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration. 
About the EU-IOM Joint Initiative  
Launched in December 2016 with the support of the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the programme brings together 26 African countries of the Sahel and Lake Chad region, the Horn of Africa, and North Africa, along with the European Union and the International Organization for Migration, around the goal of ensuring that migration is safer, more informed, and better governed for both migrants and their communities. 

For more information, please contact Helina Mengistu, email: or Adam Sahilu, email: