A SCOTS university will help provide better mental health care in Lebanon and Sierra Leone due to “huge challenges” caused by unrest and the refugee crisis.

In April Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri warned the strain of supporting more than one million Syrian refugees is pushing his country close to “breaking point”.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone suffered a long and brutal civil war and health services have been stretched by the recent Ebola outbreak.

Now health experts from Queen Margaret University (QMU) in Edinburgh will work to strengthen the “weak health systems” to provide help with mental health and the treatment of diabetes and heart disease.

The team has been awarded a £3.5m research grant to find new ways of aiding clinics, health workers and community groups.

The work, with the University of Sierra Leone and the American University of Beirut, will build on earlier projects in Zimbabwe, Uganda and Cambodia.

Dr Fiona Coutts, dean of health sciences at QMU, said the work could have a global impact.

Professor Alastair Ager, of QMU’s Institute for Global Health and Development, added: “Promoting good health and delivering effective health services in countries affected by years of unrest or adversity is a challenging task.

“Building on the relationships we have developed with researchers and health leaders in Lebanon and Sierra Leone, we have an opportunity to develop innovative approaches to address these challenges.

“If we find ways of delivering these services in these countries, we could learn lessons to share in other fragile situations.”