Ukrainian refugees granted mental health and psychosocial support in Republic of Moldova
27 February 2023
- When millions fled fighting in Ukraine in spring 2022, few thought they were leaving for the long term.
But a year later, millions are still living abroad, trying to assimilate into countries with unfamiliar languages, customs and cultures. The Republic of Moldova has a population of just over 2.6 million, but over a half a million refugees have crossed into the tiny country, of whom over 100 000 remain. Many women are effectively single parents, away from their husbands and traditional support networks and with limited opportunity to work. These burdens are on top of the grief, loss, uncertainty and separation from loved ones faced by all affected by the war.
Such stressors mean that thousands of Ukrainians are at risk of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and acute stress. Most people will recover over time or with community-based support, but some may develop moderate or severe mental health conditions, such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, which require focused or specialized interventions.
“Access to high-quality mental health and psychosocial support can make all the difference to the thousands of Ukrainians at risk of mental health issues,” explains Maura Reap, Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Consultant for the WHO Country Office in the Republic of Moldova.
“Evidence shows that the prevalence of mental disorders increases significantly during conflict, with 1 in 5 (22%) people who have lived in conflict during the past decade meeting the criteria for a mental health disorder,” added Reap
Stigma about mental health issues can mean that people may fear discrimination and shy away from seeking help. Additionally, long waiting lists, language barriers with local psychologists and a particular lack of provision for certain groups – including children – can mean that the problem is exacerbated.
The WHO Country Office in the Republic of Moldova is working closely with the government and partner agencies to ensure that Ukrainian refugees have access to the right level of mental health care. The Moldovan government has recently granted “temporary protection” to displaced Ukrainians and some third country nationals. This legislation, which comes into effect on 1 March 2023, grants them the same access to health-care as Moldovan citizens.
WHO coordinates a technical group of partner organizations providing mental health and psychosocial support services to refugees living in the country. Through effective coordination and leadership, WHO ensures that Ukrainian refugees have access to the level of care they need, and referrals are made effectively and efficiently.