Evaluating the implementation and effectiveness of an integrated psychosocial intervention to reduce psychological distress and intimate partner violence among forced migrants in Ecuador and Panama 

Lead Implementation Partner: HIAS, Inc.
Lead Research Partner: Columbia University, University of Copenhagen
Study Setting: Ecuador, Panama

Study Overview:

HIAS, an international humanitarian MHPSS implementing agency, in partnership with Columbia University and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, will adapt, implement, and evaluate an integrated psychosocial intervention to improve psychological wellbeing and reduce intimate partner violence (IPV) among forced migrants in Ecuador and Panama. This work builds upon a prior feasibility trial which tested an integrated IPV and mental health intervention approach, called ‘Nguvu’ – the Swahili term for strength, for acceptability, relevance, and feasibility among Congolese refugees in Tanzania. A key recommendation that emerged from that trial was that integration of psychosocial and community-focused components are needed, which will be a focus of this project. This work will adapt Nguvu from a focused, non-specialized psychological and protection intervention (IASC MHPSS pyramid level 3) into a psychosocial intervention integrated into basic, evidence-based protection services for women in forcibly displaced communities (IASC MHPSS pyramid levels 1-2). Specifically, the project will integrate Psychological First Aid (PFA) to promote mental health and psychosocial wellbeing with Advocacy Counseling to reduce the frequency and severity of IPV. This work will then evaluate 1) the implementation of the integrated psychosocial and protection intervention in four complex, dynamic humanitarian settings and forcibly displaced populations in Ecuador (Guayaquil – urban, Tulcan – a border city) and Panama (Panama City – urban; Panama West – peri-urban) in the context of COVID-19, and 2) the effectiveness of the integrated psychosocial and protection intervention to improve psychosocial wellbeing and reduce IPV through strengthening linkages to community-based supports, health and protection services, and the direct provision of basic psychosocial support among forcibly displaced women in Ecuador and Panama.