USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA) remains at the forefront of the humanitarian community’s efforts to mitigate mortality and morbidity during crises by supporting a wide range of health interventions. USAID/OFDA-supported initiatives include life-saving medical assistance, immunization campaigns, disease surveillance systems, vector-control activities, and capacity-building trainings for local health workers. Recognizing the inextricable link between health and other core humanitarian sectors, particularly nutrition and water, sanitation, and hygiene, USAID/OFDA supports integrated programs that simultaneously address multiple determinants of health in emergencies, such as access to health facilities, food security, and the availability of safe drinking water.
In Fiscal Year 2016, USAID/OFDA provided approximately $260 million to mitigate and prevent the adverse effects of natural and man-made crises on the health of affected populations. The total included more than $255 million for health interventions in 25 countries and approximately $5.4 million for global and regional health initiatives.
Improving Global Emergency Mental Health Care Response
Through the International Medical Corps (IMC), USAID/OFDA is supporting the development and dissemination of a mental health care toolkit for use in humanitarian settings. Mental health care gaps occur frequently in emergencies due to a confluence of common factors, such as health facility damage, limited health care staff availability, and high levels of need. In line with UN World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations, the IMC toolkit facilitates the training of emergency health professionals in the frontline management of priority mental health conditions to enable the integration of mental health into primary health care.
In collaboration with other mental health care stakeholders, WHO has developed global guidelines for the integration of mental health in humanitarian settings that contain basic, evidence-based treatment protocols aimed at primary health care providers for the identification and management of priority mental health conditions. Organizations implementing humanitarian health programs are often unfamiliar with how to integrate these global mental health care guidelines into primary health care. With the development of this toolkit, humanitarian health organizations will be able to provide much-needed mental health services as part of their general package of health services in emergencies.
The USAID/OFDA-supported IMC toolkit will have easy-to-follow steps and associated resources for mental health–primary health care integration in humanitarian settings worldwide, including acute, chronic, rural, and urban disasters. The toolkit will provide essential guidance to implementing organizations, as well as donors and host government representatives. The dissemination of the mental health toolkit will improve the quality of mental health programs in emergencies and increase access to effective, holistic, and sustainable care.