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CDB, PAHO train regional mental health professionals for disaster aftermath


CDB, PAHO train regional mental health professionals for disaster aftermath

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As the Region prepares for possible impacts from the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) have embarked on a project to build resilience and psychosocial support across the Caribbean.

Over the period July 9 to 12, mental health professionals from across the Region will attend a Training-of-Trainers workshop at PAHO’s offices in Barbados. The objective is to establish a roster of persons who can be mobilised to affected countries in the event of a natural disaster, to provide mental health and psychosocial support. In addition, participants will be provided with the tools to conduct additional training in their home countries.

Speaking at the opening ceremony on July 9, Daniel Best, Director of Projects, CDB, said that while recovery and rehabilitation efforts have typically focused on infrastructure, there is a need to prepare populations to better cope with natural hazards by focusing on mental health and psychosocial well-being.

“As participants of this workshop you will be trained in tools to provide mental health and psychosocial support, including the provision of psychological first aid (PFA). PFA is specifically geared towards addressing the immediate and practical psychosocial needs of individuals, families, and communities in the aftermath of a disaster. You will play a critical part in current and upcoming recovery and rehabilitation processes. We cannot achieve social resilience and sustainable development without addressing mental health and psychosocial well-being,” said Best.

Delivering the feature address at the opening of the workshop, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bostic, Minister of Health and Wellness for Barbados noted that given the Region’s vulnerability to natural disasters, the training provided during the workshop will enable the mobilisation of a regional response in the event of a disaster.

“We are becoming increasingly aware of the emotional and mental toll that severe disasters have on populations and the need to design appropriate strategies. The psychological impact of such devastation, including loss of life in some instances, cannot be overlooked. Immediate and focused interventions are needed to assist individuals to cope with loss, devastation, and to provide the tools to emotionally support individuals and their families to the eventual transition to normalcy or their new norm,” said Minister Bostic.

Dr Godfrey Xuereb, PAHO/WHO representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean said that PAHO is focused on including mental health support in its interventions.

“Addressing mental health and psychosocial support has become a priority in our disaster preparedness efforts both at the national and at the regional level. We need to raise mental health awareness pre and post disaster. Over the coming days we hope to train a cadre of persons to enable them to identify immediate needs and tailor interventions during humanitarian emergencies, placing particular emphasis on vulnerable groups and gender-based vulnerability,” said Xuereb.

The workshop is part of a joint project by PAHO and CDB, entitled Building individual and social resilience to cope with the impacts of natural hazard events: enhancing capacity for mental health and psychosocial support in disaster management in the Caribbean. It will be implemented over an 18-month period. (PR)