PS Centre Annual Report 2018

»Just imagine that all the volunteers of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies worldwide are trained as a standard in psychosocial care, you will have millions of people around the world who have an eye for this and can help those in need.«

Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, The Netherlands.

In many ways, 2018 was a memorable year for the field of mental health and psychosocial support within the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.

At the Council of Delegates in 2017, Yves D’Accord, Director General of ICRC, stated that psychosocial support saves lives. In the intervening year we used this quote numerous times. It is a matter of life and death, and fortunately this fact is gaining a broader recognition than ever.

2018 was another year of large-scale disasters and humanitarian emergencies. Millions of people suffer the consequences of war, violence and displacement in Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Rakhine State, Libya and elsewhere. Natural disasters wreaked havoc across continents leading to thousands of deaths and huge losses. From earthquakes and tsunamis in Indonesia, to floods in Afghanistan to wildfires in California disasters struck all corners of the globe.

Against this backdrop we see a great interest from governments and donors in the field of MHPSS and a willingness to engage in conversations with humanitarian communities about where the largest unmet needs can be found, how best to support and not least, how best to ensure scalability and quality.

A number of high-level MHPSS advocacy events occurred in 2018. Most notably the UK Government held a Ministerial level Mental health summit in London, the German Government co-hosted a meeting with UNICEF focusing on children and youth in conflict settings to carry forward the recommendations from an earlier conference at Wilton Park, and lastly, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a roundtable discussion with international and UN organizations, including the IFRC and ICRC.

This interest in scaling up and scaling deep matches the development in a field where there are huge unmet needs and a large potential for innovation to reach the many who do not receive support.  This intention of reaching many more people with interventions of a “deeper” quality has huge potential, but also contains significant challenges.

We have a duty of care towards the 14 million volunteers who make an effort for others in crisis all over the world – an effort which can leave scars on the soul. They face a triple burden: They are exposed to traumatic events as they provide life-saving assistance and emotional support to affected populations. They are often members of affected communities themselves and therefore may experience the same loss and grief as the people they are supporting. They work long hours under extremely challenging conditions, often with inadequate resources or limited training.

By providing these 14 million volunteers with better training, better development and better care, they will be able to help even more people and take better care of themselves and their fellow volunteers.

By the start of 2018 the IFRC PS Centre found itself in a financially precarious situation. Strengthening psychosocial support interventions, training and supervision of staff and volunteers is seen as being key to fight stigma, increase and upgrade our workforce and reach many more with mental health conditions. At the same time, however, we experienced a sharp decline of the type of financial support that enables us to provideour core services.