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Coping with crisis - Newsletter No. 3, 2008



When the emergency is over

Psychosocial support programmes often start with an emergency – natural or manmade, and get a lot of focus in the response phase and into recovery. When things are back to normal, it is not always evident how to take care of newly developed resources. We do not, however, have to look for long to see that these capacities, if managed well, can make all the difference next time around.

As we follow the tense situation in Southern Caucasus with psychosocial eyes, we see how training and experience allows quick response to emergencies. Thanks to the psychosocial focus after the Beslan tragedy in 2004, the Russian Red Cross is aware of this aspect of response.
The Beslan operations not only gave the National Society skilled psychosocial support staff and volunteers, but also raised awareness that lead to more training at central level in Moscow. As the displaced cross the border from South to North Ossetia, the Russian Red Cross is ready to care for their psychosocial wellbeing as well as their other immediate needs. Currently (15.08.08) a Russian Red Cross team of 17 psychologists and 15 volunteers are supporting an estimated 1000 displaced children, organising trips, games and activities, and monitoring children who seem to be distressed.

Without the Beslan experience, the Russian Red Cross would not be able to provide the same quality psychosocial support immediately to these displaced children. However, this experience alone is not enough. What makes the difference is the willingness of the National Society to keep focus on the psychosocial support after the emergency, and to keep building its capacity through training and awareness raising.

In this issue of Coping you get the first account of the International Federation psychosocial support delegate in Myanmar and also some other examples of psychosocial support in recent emergency operations. Furthermore, you can read about current efforts to increase psychosocial capacity in the Middle East and North Africa zone, in many ways initiated by the need to respond to the millions of displaced Iraqis in the region.

Also in this issue is an article about critical incident stress management as a staff and peer support strategy in a humanitarian context. The PS Centre encourages experience-sharing, and therefore invites readers to submit articles describing other, concrete approaches to meeting social support needs of staff and volunteers, both groups and individuals, after stressful situations in emergency settings.

Yours sincerely,

Nana Wiedemann,