psychosocial management of large scale disasters,
what we can learn from Haiti

200,000 people dead.

But now we are facing a different disaster, a psychosocial disaster. Once the first crisis is past, disaster victims are faced with having to rebuild their destroyed lives.

Large scale disasters, manmade or natural, usually involve loss of life, injury and loss of protection and shelter. But what is often not recognised, is that disasters also destroy the social and psychological fabric and the resilience of communities. Relationships are lost, families torn apart, communities dislocated and disintegrated.

The immediate response to a disaster is usually that rescue workers, organisations and volunteers rush to the scene, but a month later the heroic rescue effort starts coming to an end, and the aid workers depart. They leave behind a traumatised population without the psychological and social resources to put their lives together again. It may take years, even decades for individuals and communities to recover from the trauma.

A psychosocial management strategy for disaster response is as much part of an overall risk limitation plan as rescue services.

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