Tuesday, April 26, 2011


As I read the SPHERE Project manual 2011 today I had ambivalent feelings. On the one hand I was overjoyed because community based psychosocial support is included as the third element of the Protection Principle 4 (p. 41-42).  The element reads, “assist affected people to recover by providing community-based and other psychosocial support” (p. 41). On the other hand I was saddened by a conversation I had with a Senior Manager in International Services of the American Red Cross on January 31, 2008. Shortly after what would be my last public presentation in support of Psychosocial Support as the platform for an integrated disaster response.  This presentation was based after years of field work in international settings. This person said: “Don’t waste our time, Psychosocial Support will never be a part of the disaster response of American Red Cross Disaster Services, because it will never be a part of the SPHERE Project manual”. Time has proven that person wrong.

In the 2004 SPHERE Project the support for community-based psychosocial support was Standard 3: mental and social aspects of health (p. 291-293). With this guidance some of us took on the development of a discipline that would probe to be a valuable tool in the Gujarat and El Salvador earthquakes, the Gujarat riots, the Bam earthquake and the 2004 Tsunami in South Asia.  The five guidance notes of this standard served as the guidance for the community support psychosocial support interventions until the MHPSS guidelines prepared by the IASC were prepared and widely disseminated in 2007. Probably the greatest support to provide evidence informed data for community based psychosocial support interventions that precipitated a synergy between clinicians and community based types occurred as a result of the Haiti and Chile earthquake.

Well the efforts of many has paid off, today community based psychosocial support interventions, is a well represented element in the Protection Standard, the Health standard, and it is mentioned in all the segments of the other standards (shelter, water and sanitation, and food and security).

Today the SPHERE 2011 mentions community based psychosocial support and provides those of us in the field with the following: (1) under Essential Health Services-Mental Health (pp. 333-335): (a) community self-help and social support (Guidance Note #1, p. 334), and  (b) Psychological first aid (Guidance Note # 2, p. 335); (2) under Protection Principle 4: (a) positive communal coping mechanisms, (b) activities for children, (c) appropriate psychosocial support, and (d) integrates support systems. A new group of responders will be found in future disaster relief operations or conflicts, the community based psychosocial support experts because Community Based Psychosocial Support is here to stay!


  1. Big Congratulations! Community based psychosocial support is crucial for the holistic recovery of the disaster and conflict survivors and therefore it is not only a moment to celebrate for the care-givers but also for those in need. It is their right to receive appropriate assistance as per their needs including those pertaining to psychological and social issues.

  2. Thank you. I forgot to mention that Psychosocial support appeears as a cross cutting issue (p. 17) and the Humanitarian Accountability Project guidance appears as the Standard 1 of the Core Standards entitled: "People centered humanitarian response".