Advocating for adoption of key psychosocial guidelines in Gaza

Palestine (West Bank/Gaza)

October 30, 2010

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Mirjam Hendrikse/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Jasem Humeid, our Psychosocial Program Manager, is one of just two people selected for the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Advocates Program in Palestine. Photo: Mirjam Hendrikse/Mercy Corps

I am very proud to share that one of Mercy Corps’ senior managers in Gaza has been chosen to be a focal person for the Mental Health Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Advocates Program in Palestine. Jasem Humeid, our Psychosocial Program Manager, is one of the two Advocates selected for Gaza — which is a great honor and reflects clearly the capacity of Mercy Corps and its staff in this sector.

The aim of this program is to determine the best mental health and psychosocial practices in using the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) guidelines in emergency and post-emergency response. By participating in the Advocates program, Jasem is increasing his capacity in adopting the IASC MHPSS Guidelines and use them as a strategic planning framework to develop initiatives for planning and programming within Mercy Corps and more broadly in the Gaza Strip.

Jasem is an advocate for the use of these guidelines and will implement a joint plan of action ensuring all MHPSS organizations in the Gaza Strip are using the guidelines appropriately.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (comprised of UN and non-UN humanitarian organizations) was established in 1992 to strengthen inter-agency decision making and coordination of humanitarian assistance. Its ultimate objective is to improve the delivery of humanitarian assistance to affected populations. Guidelines are used to plan, establish and coordinate multi-sectoral response based on minimum standards.

The IASC guidelines for mental health and psychosocial support were established in 2007. Core principles of the guidelines are:

  • Human Rights and Equity
  • Do No Harm
  • Build on available resources and capacities
  • Integrated support systems
  • Multi-layered support

During a five-day training in Amman, Jordan in April, Jasem — together with other Advocates from the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria — prepared for his new responsibilities in Gaza. Now, a few months later, he has already achieved a lot.

Mercy Corps staff, as well as staff from other (international) organizations, have been made aware of the guidelines and are trained to use them. Jasem and his counterpart in Gaza conducted training during one of the MHPSS cluster meetings in which most of the stakeholders in this sector in Gaza participate. Under Mercy Corps’ own psychosocial program, funded by the European Commission’s DG for Humanitarian Assistance and Civil Protection (ECHO), 24 staff from local partners were trained as well.

A knowledge test with twelve questions conducted before and after the training showed remarkable results. Before the training, participants were only able to answer between one and three questions correct. Several people could not provide a single good answer. After the training 21 participants (88 percent) answered all questions in the correct way! Two people were able to provide eleven good answers, and one person provided nine good answers.

In line with IASC MHPSS guidelines, and thanks to Jasem’s efforts, Mercy Corps is now better able to conduct relevant and effective interviews for new Mercy Corps psychosocial staff. We are also ensuring that the guidelines are followed while writing project reports and new project proposals. New psychosocial projects will take into account the guidelines and will be implemented in close coordination with other organizations active in this sector as well.

Although the focus of recent trainings has been on mental health and psychosocial support sector stakeholders, it is important to integrate psychosocial considerations into other sectors such as health, education, shelter, food, water and sanitation. This is something that Jasem, with his counterpart, will be working on in the coming months.