Refugees living in Lebanon now have access to an artificial intelligence mobile phone app called 'Karim' that they can talk to about their problems. Edward Baran reports.
A new artificial intelligence tool is offering refugees in Lebanon an opportunity to discuss their fears and frustrations. The program, called 'Karim', is accessible via instant messaging applications on people's phones. Bashar, a Syrian construction engineer who fled to Lebanon two years ago, is among those using it. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN MAN IN LEBANON HELPING TO TEST 'KARIM', BASHAR, SAYING: "The idea behind it is trying to psychologically unload for anyone who might be facing a psychological problem: discomfort, stress, fear or anything else. I think we need to psychologically offload a lot, not only for refugees but for those working in NGOs or anywhere else, with the current pressure people are facing." More than 1 million Syrian refugees have entered Lebanon since the start of the conflict five years ago, many having survived traumatic experiences. The program is the Arabic version of 'Tess', an English language mental healthcare and psychological artificial intelligence tool available in the US and Europe. The software company behind it says 'Karim' has an "emotional algorithm" that helps it understand people's emotions, and respond accordingly. (SOUNDBITE) (English) CO-FOUNDER, PRESIDENT AND CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER OF X2AI, EUGENE BANN, SAYING: "We have an automated conversation with people and this conversation talks the user through psychological therapies. At the beginning, we are trying to get people to open up because there is a high trust barrier here, and after they've opened up we start to understand their emotions." Unlike therapists, Karim is available to refugees without an appointment, 24 hours a day. The World Health Organization estimates 15 to 20 percent of people in a humanitarian crisis suffer mild or moderate mental health disorders, suggesting 200,000 Syrians in Lebanon could be affected.