IOM, National Institute of Psychology, Quaid-i-Azam University Host International Conference on Mental Health of Afghan Migrants

Ms. Tammy Sharpe, Deputy Representative UNHCR addresses the audience on mental health needs within the refugee community.
Muhammad Zeeshan Siddiqui/IOM 2023

Conference attendees gain a deeper understanding of the vulnerabilities and risks faced by Afghan migrants through a power walk
Muhammad Zeeshan Siddiqui/IOM 2023

Participants engage in a pre-workshop discussion on identifying distress in migrant children and adolescents.
Muhammad Zeeshan Siddiqui/IOM 2023

An IOM staff member participates in art therapy. During the conference, participants learned about the use of expressive art therapy in healing trauma in migrant children and adolescents. Muhammad Zeeshan Siddiqui/IOM 2023

Dr. Marsela Nyawara, IOM Emergency Health Officer, engages with a student presenting their work onthe mental health of migrants during a poster presentation. Muhammad Zeeshan Siddiqui/IOM 2023

Islamabad - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) Pakistan, in collaboration with the National Institute of Psychology (NIP) of Quaid-i-Azam University, recently hosted the International Conference on Mental Health of Afghan Migrants: Issues, Challenges, and Solutions for All Stakeholders to promote the mental health and well-being of migrants and host communities. 

Ahead of World Health Day on 7 April, which this year has a focus on Health for All, the three-day conference, last month (13-15 March) brought together mental health experts and stakeholders to discuss the mental health issues faced by Afghan migrants and host communities, including the lack of basic needs, the absence of mental health care, and the stigma against mental health.

The conference also facilitated much-needed dialogue bringing together key experts in public health, academia, non-profits, international organizations, and other relevant stakeholders to share knowledge, best practices, and opportunities to address the mental health needs of Afghan migrants.

The pre-conference workshops on the first two days focused on gender disparity and mental health issues in migrant children and adolescents. These sessions started a much-needed conversation about the struggles women, and migrant children face in accessing mental health facilities and participating in recreational activities.

In addition, 60 migrant mental health practitioners working with Afghan children had the opportunity to participate in an expressive art therapy workshop.

The conference's final day brought together over 315 participants who engaged in panel discussions, keynote speeches, and poster presentations.

In her address at the conference, IOM Pakistan Chief of Mission, Mio Sato, emphasized the pressing need for practical solutions and interventions that can improve mental health outcomes for refugees and migrants.

"We hope to foster a collaborative and inclusive dialogue that will help us to identify practical solutions and interventions that can improve the mental health outcomes of refugees and migrants alike," Sato said.

She highlighted the importance of collaboration and inclusivity in addressing the underlying causes of mental health issues, including poverty, displacement, and trauma, while providing access to culturally appropriate and effective mental health care.

The conference was also particularly impactful for students studying to become mental health practitioners. One such student, Aliya Wazir, a student at the National Institute of Psychology of Quaid-i-Azam University, remarked, "It was a privilege to be part of this important conversation, and I am grateful to the organizers for creating this opportunity. The conference has strengthened my resolve to work towards promoting mental health and well-being in emergency-affected and displaced populations.

IOM emergency mobile health teams have been making ongoing efforts to support the mental health and psychosocial needs of communities affected by emergencies. To date, these teams have provided psychological first aid (PFA) training to over 500 emergency health workers and 1660 community members and have supported 1960 individuals through PFA therapy sessions and 2340 individuals through MHPSS counseling.

These efforts will continue to be carried out by IOM teams for provision of ongoing support to those in need.


For more information, please contact at IOM Pakistan, Maha Akbar at email:, Tel: +923051117348

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals