In Mexico, MSF teams provide medical and psychosocial consultations to refugees and migrants fleeing violence and poverty in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. Many of our patients have experienced torture, rape, and other acts of extreme violence in their home countries and along the migration route. MSF provides primary and mental health care at shelters along the route. Many patients need additional follow-up and support over the course of their onward journey, but this is very difficult to provide, as we do not know where people go after they leave the shelters. The routes are various and on top of that migrants do not want to be found.
The Displacement Unit spent a month in Mexico to understand the reality, concerns and aspirations of migrants from the Northern triangle of South America and those of the MSF teams on the ground. Observations, engagements and interviews let to a list of insights, of which one was key to develop a concept, namely using social media to engage with migrants. During the 15 minutes of internet migrants are given in the shelters, nearly all is spent on social media. Tapping into a channel migrants are familiar with like to use, increases the likelihood of acceptance.
At the moment MSF’s team in Mexico is collaborating with migrants to design and pilot a program that allows them to stay in touch. Patients can use the social media platform to receive and share general information about MSF services and about managing their health and wellbeing through a chat bot. The bot will also enable patients with more severe mental health issues, such as suicidal thoughts or anxiety, to directly connect with our teams over audio or video call. The first pilot using the materials developed by the Displacement Unit is planned for the end of 2017.