As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a large number of workers in the Yangon Area of Myanmar have lost their jobs. These losses are largely due to factory closures caused by a shortage of raw materials and a global decline in trade.

To support Myanmar’s COVID-19 preparedness and response, the Livelihoods and Food Security Fund (LIFT) is funding a psychosocial counselling program as part of the “Aye Chan Thaw Ein” project, implemented by Alliance2015 member People in Need (PIN), its partner Helvetas, and other local NGOs. The COVID-19 Phone Line Counselling helpline, which is being implemented with the service provider Call Me Today, will give workers who have lost their jobs access to free, specialized counselling services over the phone until the end of August.

Psychosocial support for 500 families

The program aims to provide psychosocial support to a group of 500 workers and their families in the industrial district of Shwe Pyi Thar Township.  These families can access free counselling services by phone six days a week (every day except Wednesday) for several hours in the afternoon and evenings.

The free, confidential psychosocial counselling sessions are provided by eight qualified mental health professionals. Sessions last one hour and can help callers deal with feelings of depression or anxiety. Callers can remain anonymous, and any data given to the counsellors is kept confidential.

Online support through Facebook

As part of the counselling program, Call Me Today has also launched a private Facebook group with information about social psychology, counselling, and tips for finding mental health support.

Francesco Melara, Consortium Coordinator for PIN Myanmar, says: “Now, more than ever, there is a need to support workers, and this is one of several services that are currently being provided. The ‘Aye Chan Thaw Ein’ Worker Centers in Shwe Pyi Thar Township are also active and playing an important role in providing career services and paralegal support to workers.”

Hygiene items for 8,000 people

PIN, in coordination with another consortium partner, Community Development Association (CDA), is also providing soaps and hand sanitizers to some 8,000 migrants and host community households in Shwe Pyi Thar Township, Yangon Region. Additionally, handwashing liquids and sanitizers were distributed to quarantine centers and worker centers, along with health posters and pamphlets from the Ministry of Health and Sports. Finally, PIN distributed megaphones and sound systems to each ward administrative committee so that it can pass along COVID-19 related health and prevention messages to residents in the area.