New UN guide aims to improve psychological support for disaster victims |

The United Nations health agency and partners have launched a guide to help field workers provide life-saving psychological support to people affected by humanitarian emergencies.

“Over the past five years, the psychological damage caused by tsunamis, earthquakes, droughts and conflict has proven to be as devastating as the physical damage,” said Bruce Aylward, Assistant Director General for Polio, emergencies and collaboration with countries at the UN. Health Organization (WHO).

“Recognizing that we can do more and better for the mental health of populations affected by disasters, WHO and its partners have developed this guide to ensure that standards and best practices are consistently applied in humanitarian settings,” added Dr. Aylward.

The guide is published to coincide with World Humanitarian Day, celebrated on August 19, which recognizes the sacrifices and contributions of those who risk their lives to help and hope for others.

Jointly produced by the WHO, the War Trauma Foundation and World Vision International, the guide reflects emerging science and international consensus on how to provide basic support to people immediately after extremely stressful events.

“This guide gives simple and practical tips to support people in ways that respect their dignity, culture and abilities,” the three organizations said in a joint press release.

It will enable aid workers and rescue workers around the world to provide essential psychological support to people in acute distress, including helping rescuers in distress themselves, they added.

The guide explains to aid workers how to provide basic psychological support, such as listening without pushing the person to speak and assessing a person’s needs and concerns. It also emphasizes supporting and protecting people who may need special attention, such as separated children and people with disabilities.

The information in the guide can be taught to aid workers in a day for immediate use, the organizations noted.