World Vision India Reinforces the Importance of Coordinated and Effective Mental Health Response during Emergencies.

World Vision India in association with CHRIST University and All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI) conducted a study titled, “Accountability to the Affected Children with Focus on Psycho-Social Support in Kerala”. The key findings emphasized the need for psychosocial care and support intervention for victims of natural calamities. The study reinforces the concept of accountability for children in humanitarian settings and the need to factor in Child-Centric Disaster Risk Reduction plans.

 It is a known fact that disasters cause widespread death and destruction. But what does not come to the fore is how disasters cause mental agony, trauma, and stress for the survivors. The trauma experienced by survivors, especially children, in post-disaster situations can lead to acute and long-term mental health and psychosocial impacts. World Vision India’s pilot project- Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) was carried out in 10 schools, covering 2119 students in the district of Alappuzha, Kerala. The project focused on providing psychosocial care and support to disaster affected children and helped them to overcome the trauma unleased by the floods.

Madhav Bellamkonda, National Director- World Vision India, said, ‘The study helped in highlighting the positive impact of providing psychosocial care and support to crisis-affected children. World Vision India has always been a pioneer among humanitarian agencies and takes pride in leading, piloting and implementing often-ignored themes under the umbrella of humanitarian assistance such as psychosocial care and support.”

Almost 7 million children were affected by the Kerala floods in 2018. World Vision India conducted the study to gather feedback from children on perceived gaps in post-disaster response, relief, rehabilitation and early recovery. The study involved feedback from 200 children, 120 stakeholders and about 30 field-level officials and elected representatives about their perceptions on what worked well and which areas need to be strengthened. World Vision India also carried out a concerted programme on providing psychosocial care through group and individual counselling sessions with the flood affected children.

Major findings include:

* 84% of the children surveyed accepted that they were anxious and disturbed after the floods.

* 83% of the children surveyed said that the counselling sessions helped them accept their situation.

* 90% of the surveyed children reported that their knowledge and skills about the importance of mental health during disasters has improved after regular psychosocial interventions.

* 84% of the children reported that they had overcome the irrational fears of disasters due to the psychosocial counselling sessions.

* 86% of the surveyed children reported that they are confident in coping up with future extreme events

“Children have been often portrayed as passive and helpless victims. Consequently, Disaster Risk Reduction, including climate change adaptation often excludes children.”, said Major General Manoj Kumar Bindal, Executive director- National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM), Delhi during the report release. He further added that, “Child Centric Disaster Risk Reduction which is inclusive of the psychosocial care should be promoted as it empowers children. This approach also prepares them to protect themselves and generate positive changes within their families and communities. Child Centric Disaster Risk Reduction is a long-term strategy for sustainable and resilient development for shocks and effective recoveries”.

The programme covered the provision of professionals delivering psychosocial care/ counselling, fostering awareness and acceptance of counselling in society. Focus was also given to better coordination between the non-government and government entities, embedding counselling sessions into the school curriculum. Special focus was also extended towards the needs of children with disabilities.

 The intervention programmes were also in line with the mandate of Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR), which lists mental health as an explicit outcome of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). It also calls for the expansion of the gamut of DRR activities to embed mental health outcomes in all assessments, impact-based forecasting, improving early warning and response capacities, better resource management, and knowledge-creation and sharing.

The need for psychosocial care was identified in a participative way through a need analysis and counselling sessions. Students covered under these counselling sessions shared that these sessions helped them, in regaining their mental composure.