2011 has begun with civil unrest in a number of countries in North Africa and the Middle East. National Societies with support from sister societies and the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement have responded with relief, medical aid and psychosocial support. Thousands of demonstrators staying together for weeks in one place not knowing what will happen next, or tens of thousands of refugees in squalor camps - some of them having crossed the border in dramatic fashion and uncertain when they can return to their country of origin - naturally creates fragile and tense situations.
Psychosocial support is not only helping individuals but also reducing the risk of possible conflicts, and once again we have been reminded about the need to be prepared for unexpected events. Thankfully most of the National Societies in the region have trained staff and volunteers, who have provided support every day during the past few months. The psychosocial support will continue as stated in the appeal with particular attention being paid towards assessing the needs of vulnerable groups and programming that mitigates the risk of gender based violence and seeks to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.
At the IFRC Psychosocial Centre we have experienced a steep increase in requests for materials, training and advice directly from National Societies in 2010 and the beginning of 2011. Entire regions are now engaged in master training of trainers, and numerous National Societies have included psychosocial support in their 5-10 year strategies, reflecting the three major aims of the global Strategy 2020.
The world map you see on the following two pages illustrates how widespread and integrated psychosocial support has become as a global Red Cross Red Crescent activity. It only highlights psychosocial interventions in relation to new appeals and on-going international operations, whereas activities carried out by numerous National Societies domestically are not included.
If they were, the map would be even more colourful, i.e. the Japanese Red Cross´ deployment of a psychosocial support team to New Zealand after the earthquake would have appeared, as well as New Zealand Red Cross´ own support.
In this issue you can also read about the Czech Red Cross’ ERU assisting after the floods, the psychosocial support to Pakistani communities after the floods, and how Magan David Adom developed from a National Society where psychosocial support to staff and volunteers was considered unnecessary to today having realized the benefits and actually being able to assist internationally, like in Haiti after the earthquake.