Anne Mungai (right), international UN Volunteer Staff Counselor with IOM, during a counseling session in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Anne Mungai (right), international UN Volunteer Staff Counselor with IOM, during a counseling session in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Providing psychosocial support to UN personnel in a delicate political context

The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has increased the vulnerability of the Afghan population in a climate of political turmoil. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) is on the ground with a team of national and international personnel. "UN Volunteers have been an integral part of IOM's outreach to women and men in Afghanistan, where two-thirds of the population are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance," says Maria Moita, Chief of the IOM mission in the country.

In delivering much-needed aid and assistance to the Afghan population, IOM national and international personnel face security risks and elevated stress. One of these is UN Volunteer Staff Counselor Anne Mungai (Kenya).

Anne joined IOM in Afghanistan in November 2022, hoping to share her expertise she gained in her native country, Kenya. She supports IOM personnel in the delicate political environment that followed restrictions imposed by the de facto authorities on Afghan women and girls, who have been barred from schools, universities and work.

I provide psychosocial support to personnel to help them manage their work and personal stress. I engage them in individual and group sessions, where we explore topics that help them cope better, like stress management, maintaining work-life balance and managing conflict in the workplace. --Anne Mungai, UN Volunteer Staff Counselor with IOM, Afghanistan

Maria Moita, Chief of the IOM mission in Afghanistan acknowledges that Anne’s presence has been essential, particularly in the current context where national staff, especially women, have been struggling with the restrictions imposed by de facto authorities, including the ban on Afghan women working for the United Nations.

Anne's weekly sessions with female staff in the country have been an important platform to share our grievances and helplessness, as well as our hopes and ideas to cope with the situation. It has been an important space for sharing and supporting each other. -- Maria Moita, Chief of the IOM mission in Afghanistan

For Anne, being away from home and working in an environment fraught with security threats and incidents means that she and her family are frequently anxious. These security threats restrict movement to the field offices where most IOM staff work, hence are among the major challenges to Anne’s work, yet she remains devoted to her assignment.

I am the daughter of a humanitarian worker. My mother worked in emergency settings in Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria until her retirement. She made it seem doable, therefore an assignment in Afghanistan didn’t seem foreign to me. Peace begins with me. --Anne Mungai

"Being a UN Volunteer in an emergency setting has enabled me to appreciate my privilege as an educated African woman, equipped to contribute to humanity. It has also re-affirmed my belief that all humans, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation want the same thing: to meet our basic needs, educate our children – girls and boys – so that they can become upstanding human beings who will contribute to society in future," Anne shares.

"What motivates me," she continues, "is seeing progress in staff members receiving counseling, seeing them cope better, noticing positive changes and observing the ripple effect on their families and relationships."