Honduran Red Cross MHPSS Response to the Eta-Iota Hurricanes

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"We are experiencing complex situations in which it is important to think about and act toward people's mental health."

In this interview, Dina Mendoza, responsible for the MHPSS response of the Honduran Red Cross for the Eta-Iota hurricanes, talks about their MHPSS approach to provide support for affected populations.

In early November, Hurricane Eta hit Central America, whose persistent rains and heavy winds resulted in flooding, landslides and crop damage across Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Two weeks later on November 17th, Hurricane Iota, the strongest Atlantic hurricane this year, caused severe damage to the areas that were already devastated from Hurricane Eta.

Mendoza shares her experience in responding to the mental health and psychosocial needs of impacted individuals, families and communities. This interview covers the adaptations and challenges that the Honduran Red Cross is facing in order to reach all affected populations. This includes both volunteers and frontline workers, as well as vulnerable groups like children and teenagers. Mendoza sheds light on the importance of implementing mental health and psychosocial support interventions at national and global levels.

The Honduran Red Cross implemented a comprehensive response with the aim to cover all levels of MHPSS interventions. Mendoza and the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) followed the framework of the MHPSS intervention pyramid.

“We have initiated an approach at the field level in emergency in which we implement the MHPSS intervention pyramid of the Movement, where work with large populations and in spaces that allow us to work with psychological first aid.”

They first addressed the immediate needs of affected communities through basic psychosocial first aid. Mendoza found that there was a lot of anger among them, which stemmed from critical components such as the loss of jobs due to the impact of both COVID-19 and the Eta-Iota hurricanes. The ERU also mapped all the local organizations to respond to the local level needs. This covers the second and third levels of the MHPSS intervention pyramid, which includes psychosocial and psychological support for at-risk groups. According to Mendoza, the mapping also allowed the ERU to identify individuals in need of specialized attention, at the fourth level of the pyramid, whose mental health conditions are likely to intensify in emergency settings.

The response strategy toward the Eta-Iota hurricanes is particularly difficult due to the COVID-19 restrictions. Responding to two different emergencies at once has challenged the Honduran Red Cross to reinvent their approach in providing psychosocial support and ensuring that people have access to MHPSS services.