To mark this year's World Refugee Day on June 20, Airlink hosted a partner webinar to shed light on how comprehensive mental health support programs play a critical role in supporting refugee populations around the world.

Beyond Survival: Prioritizing Refugee Mental Health and Psychosocial Support

Date & Time: Tuesday, June 20, 2023 at 10 AM EST


In celebration of World Refugee Day, Airlink hosted a panel discussion on implementing Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Programs for refugee communities. 
Representatives from Airlink’s partner network including HIAS, International Medical Corps, IsraAID, and MedGlobal highlighted experiences, best practices, and success stories in the implementation of effective mental health and psychosocial support programs in emergency responses. The panelists shared their experiences, knowledge, and insights on building effective programs that address the unique challenges faced by displaced populations.
The goal of this Airlink-led conversation was to bring awareness to the critical role comprehensive mental health support programs play in supporting refugee populations. Additionally, it was a valuable opportunity to share knowledge and build the capacity of Airlink’s partners that are active in rapid-onset emergencies and protracted crises.
Airlink is proud to currently be supporting refugee interventions across the world, including in Ukraine, Syria, Bangladesh, Venezuela, and at the U.S.-Mexico border. As crises become more complex and the number of refugees grows worldwide, it is estimated that 117.2 million people will be forcibly displaced or stateless this year. In total, Airlink has reached over 7.3 million refugees and IDPs globally, providing critical life-saving and life-sustaining care to communities in crisis.

Participating Airlink Partners

HIAS administers community-based mental health programs across 14 countries. In Venezuela, the MHPSS programs are one of their core areas of work. HIAS Venezuela runs community support groups and ensures access to intensive mental health support for displaced individuals. In addition, they ensure the pychosocial competenece of their personnel to incorporate MHPSS services into all of their programs.
MedGlobal administers psychosocial support to refugee and displaced communities through programs around the world. In North Aleppo, the organization supports the only mental health hospital, providing care to over 500 people monthly. In Lebanon, MedGlobal has a mobile mental health unit, providing immediate support and referrals for long-term care. The organization additionally integrated MHPSS services within their comprehensive healthcare support as a part of their response in Bangladesh.
International Medical Corps
IMC plays a leading role in the advancement of mental health systems in humanitarian settings. They contribute to the development of global guidelines and national policies for improving mental health and well-being among affected populations. IMC has been implementing programs integrating mental health into general healthcare for many years in countries all over the world including Ethiopia, Iraq, Nepal, Lebanon, the Philippines, South Sudan, Syria, and many many more. 
IsraAID integrates mental health services and post-trauma support into each of their emergency response programs. Working closely with local actors, the team rebegularly establishes child-safe spaces to provide immediate relief following a disaster, providing psychosocial support to help minimize the long-term impact of the emergency.


The webinar was moderated by Airlink’s Brigid McKeon, Humanitarian Programs Manager, Latin America, and Ashley Bustillo, Humanitarian Programs Associate.


Dr. Nahreen Ahmed, MD MPH, Medical Director, MedGlobal

Dr. Nahreen Ahmed is originally from the Greater Philadelphia area, alumnus of Drexel University College of Medicine, University of Illinois in Chicago Internal Medicine Residency Program and NYU/Bellevue Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship. She is currently Faculty in the division of Pulmonary and Critical Care at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. She launched her Global Health career by founding the Bangladesh Ultrasound Initiative, a training program in Point-of-Care Ultrasound for Critical Care physicians in Dhaka, Bangladesh and is currently the head of ultrasound programming at MedGlobal, successfully bringing point of care ultrasound to conflict and crisis zones such as Ukraine, Yemen, Syria, Gaza, Sierra Leone, and the Rohingya Refugee Camps in Bangladesh.

Michelle Engels, Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Advisor – Ukraine Regional Response, International Medical Corps

Dr. Michelle Engels is a Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Technical Advisor working with International Medical Corps as part of the Ukraine regional response. For the previous 10 years, Michelle specialised in mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) in humanitarian and conflict-affected settings. Michelle has worked in MHPSS in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, East Africa and the Middle East with various organizations, including UN agencies and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. She started her career 20 years ago working in community mental health care in Australia, and has worked as a Clinical Psychologist within the Australian healthcare system, focusing her work on working with veterans of war, refugees fleeing conflict and persons with substance-use issues.

Avital Furlager, Head of Protection Team, IsraAID

Avital Furlager is the Interim Head of Protection for IsraAID headquarters working under the Programs sector, supporting content development and implementation for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Programs across several projects in different countries. Her responsibilities include overseeing ethical and appropriate content in programs, supervision of field staff implementing PSS programs, writing and editing manuals and materials for training, and collaboration with colleagues from IsraAID and from other humanitarian aid organizations. Avital is a psychotherapist and dance/movement therapist specializing in trauma work with children, adults and families. She holds a master’s degree from Columbia College in Dance/Movement Therapy and Counselling and is licensed with the American Dance Therapy Association (ADTA) as a board-certified dance/movement therapist. She teaches at the University of Haifa and is a published author. She began her work with refugees as a mental health clinician at the International FACES refugee clinic in Chicago, IL. Mindfulness, embodiment, authenticity and creative expression are friends, partners, and inroads to healing in her approach to wellbeing.

Glaucia Pereda, MHPSS Technical Advisor, Central America & the Caribbean, HIAS

Glaucia is an anthropologist and clinical psychologist, with Master’s degrees in International Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid, Clinical and Health Psychology, and Cognitive-Behavioral Psychotherapy. She also has a certificate in Mental Health in Complex Emergencies from Fordham University and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for Migrants in Latin America at El Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Mexico (COLEF). Glaucia began her humanitarian work as a psychologist in HIAS, providing psychosocial support to Colombian refugees fleeing the armed conflict and seeking safe refuge in Venezuela. Then with a complex humanitarian emergency arising in Venezuela and the increase of refugees and migrants fleeing the country to Latin America and the Caribbean, she assisted the start-up of psychosocial services in HIAS Aruba, Guyana, and Mexico, training MHPSS competencies to field teams, and providing technical oversight. After all this experience Glaucia decided to return to support her country of origin and assumed the Coordination of the MHPSS program in Venezuela, leading the implementation of multi-donor MHPSS programs at the national level, providing technical advice and supervision to ensure quality implementation. Since August 2022, in a very challenging context, she provided support in the development of the mental health and psychosocial support program of HIAS in Ukraine, and more recently, due to the impacts of hurricanes and floods in Central America, she supported the start-up of the MHPSS program in Honduras. Currently, Glaucia Pereda is the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Technical Advisor for Central America and the Caribbean at HIAS. She provides MHPSS technical support and direction to the region due to the growing complexity, she leadership start-up MHPSS programming in Honduras and Guatemala while also providing ongoing support to existing MHPSS programming in Panama, Costa Rica, Guyana, Aruba, and Northern Caribbean Islands.