TPO Uganda is a Non-Governmental Organization that started its work in Uganda as Institute for Psychosocial and social ecological Research (I.P.S.E.R) in 1994 with a study commissioned by UNHCR on the mental health and psychosocial issues affecting South Sudanese. Upon identification of significant MHPSS issues and needs, UNHCR supported TPO to implement the study recommendations. This gave birth to the TPO programs in Uganda. Later, TPO expanded its MHPSS programming in other countries including Somalia, South Sudan, Congo and Liberia. Over the years, TPO gradually moved its interventions to underserved national communities that were also in need of support. This growth was not only geographical but also entailed an increase in the volume of its interventions, from a single-issue focus to more holistic programming including addressing the drivers of poor mental health and psychological distress. Over the years, TPO Uganda‘s program has expanded to cover mental health and psychosocial support, social protection interventions, child and adolescent focused programs as well as economic empowerment programs for women and vulnerable households.
TPO Uganda is currently present in 56 districts of Uganda, spread across seven sub-regions of Acholi, Lango, Teso, Karamoja sub-region, South West, West Nile and Central Uganda.
TPO Uganda started operations as the Institute for Psychosocial and Social Ecological Research (IPSER) based in Amsterdam at the University of Maastricht. The focus then, was on mental health research with the goal of feeding into academic institutions. By 1994, there were influx of refugees from South Sudan into North Western Uganda (Arua, Adjumani and Moyo districts) with a refugee population of 230,000. As a result, UNHCR assigned IPSER to conduct a Mental Health and Psychosocial needs assessment. The findings led to the design of a mental health program to address the mental health needs of South Sudanese’s using a trauma healing approach.
In 1996, IPSER conducted the Program evaluation which informed the change of the trauma healing approach into a more trauma focussed one that was adopted with an emphasis on Community-based psychosocial approach to include: Psycho-education, Psychosocial counselling, Support groups, Child protection, Income generation to address economic needs, Strengthening referrals, Stress management and Psychiatric outreach clinics among others.
In 1997/8 IPSER changed name to TPO Uganda and focused more on service provision building on research.
From 1999 to 2001 TPO-Uganda increasingly responded to the needs of internally displaced communities as a result of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in the Acholi and Lango sub-regions in northern Uganda. The focus was on conflict affected communities, necessitated delivery of a complete set of interventions that were primarily humanitarian and relief-oriented in nature. Two years later, TPO Uganda localized and appointed the first Ugandan Team leader, Patrick Onyango Mangen in the capacity of Country Director. A local training unit was constituted to generate income and support sustainable implementation of TPO Uganda programs. A resource centre was built in Arua as a unit to generate funds through trainings.
In the period between 2001 and 2005, TPO Uganda developed and implemented her first detailed strategic plan, constituted the first Board of Directors, globally participated in the development of MHPSS IASC Guidelines in addition to conducting several international and local capacity building in Liberia, Burundi, Sudan and Somalia. TPO works closely with Min of health to enhance the component of community mental health into health programs for sustainable mental health services.
Blockbuster transitions have taken place since 2006 to date including; expansion of operations to 56 districts, adoption of Consortium approach to programs and projects implementation, sharpening relationships with government through the MGLSD and MoH, exponentially increasing staff count to 300+ and enhancing quest for quality and accountability with the CHS certification and championing cause for mental health as the national coordinator of the MHPSS Technical Working Group.