BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday March 29, 2018 – Despite the high vulnerability of the Caribbean to natural disasters and the effect they can have on mental health and psychosocial well-being, social resilience is often overlooked in mitigation and rebuilding efforts. So, in direct response to this issue, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has announced that it will fund a programme to enhance capacity for mental health and psychosocial support in disaster management in the Caribbean.
“It is critical that a country’s response to any disaster includes a targeted psychosocial support and mental health component to rebuild individual and social resilience,” said Daniel Best, Director of Projects, CDB.
“We have witnessed first-hand how feelings of anxiety and distress can result from the inability to tolerate and withstand environmental and social threats, and lead to behaviours, including substance abuse, child and spousal abuse and gender-based violence. This can potentially have a long term debilitating impact on victims, and by extension, the development of Small Island Developing States.”
Addressing mental health and psychosocial support has become increasingly relevant for governments and humanitarian actors.
The grant from CDB will assist the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) with enhancing regional capacity to provide this kind of support in disaster management, and achieve three primary objectives: to build regional capacity for mental health and psychosocial support in disaster management within the health sector, other agencies outside the health sector, and the broader community; to strengthen in-country competencies to conduct mental health and psychosocial support needs assessments, and develop or update action plans for such support in disaster management; and to develop and implement a Caribbean awareness and communication campaign in preparation for the 2018 hurricane season to increase knowledge about, acceptance of and uptake of psychosocial support and mental health services.
Five CDB Borrowing Member Countries, including some affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, will be selected for participation in the programme, which is scheduled to be implemented from April 2018 to October 2019.
The CDB said special attention will be given to particular groups within the general population, which may be at greater risk of negative outcomes during a disaster situation, such as children and adolescents; women; the elderly; indigenous people; those with pre-existing mental disorders; migrants; the disabled; homeless persons; and those living in shelters.
PAHO’s sub-regional programme coordination office in Barbados will be responsible for the overall management and coordination of the project.