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  5. Why Psychosocial Activities are Necessary

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FOCUS June 2001 Volume 24

Why Psychosocial Activities are Necessary

Abilio Belo

Experience shows that psychosocial activities are necessary to stabilize and improve the strong reactions people have in emergency situations. In other words, such activities are necessary to treat "normal reactions" in "abnormal situations". In abnormal situations, established framework such as authorities, family and social structures no longer function and the lack of these leads to chaos. Necessary structure and organization must be reinforced. Psychosocial activities should take place within three months after the state of emergency, and the best time is between the first and sixth week after the injury. But even if activities are taken after this time, it will still have a positive effect.

Psychosocial work in difficult emergency situations aims to promote:

  • psychosocial functioning
  • peace-building and restorative energy
  • reconciliation
  • human rights
  • local competence in psychosocial work
  • strengthening of the weaker groups.

It targets women, children and the elderly first. Persons with serious physical damage and psychological trauma must be cared for.

The methods employed are meant to

  • support existing psychological and social protective factors
  • strengthen the network of people
  • re-establish trust
  • reduce stress factors
  • encourage active participation and responsibility within the target group
  • strengthen personal abilities so as to bring about personal healing
  • do crisis intervention in well-established groups
  • identify and offer rehabilitation to violent and psychotic persons
  • facilitate religious ceremonies
  • facilitate rituals for death and sorrow.

The methods should be culturally sensitive, and respectful of the person.

Psychosocial programs can be developed regarding the following:

  • activities in the local milieu
  • activities in the network of people
  • self help methods<
  • advisory activities
  • local participation/co-workers
  • democracy building
  • bottom up strategies.

Understanding the cultural context

  • cross cultural communication - understanding yourself and others
  • conflict management and working through conflicts
  • use of local cultural and religious traditions
  • gender perspective and family structures.

Building partnership and local acceptance of methods in an emergency situation:

  • development of methods for problem analysis and common understanding as a basis for methods
  • selecting people and co-operating partners in the project
  • nurturing and developing available resources.

Building local competence and capacity

    • ssembling a training program for local partners:
  • Training in psychosocial work:
    • heoretical understanding and methodical approach and development
    • uidance and development of co-operating partners.
  • Training in other functions in the project:
    • eporting/evaluating
    • ersonnel development
    • aking care of each other
    • uilding up logistical resources.

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