Palestine Red Crescent Society shares expertise in psychosocial support for refugees

Publicado: 8 abril 2016 17:30 CET

By Stephen Ryan (@stiofanoriain), IFRC

With decades of experience in providing psychosocial support, Palestine Red Crescent Society has become a regional leader in this often neglected area of humanitarian assistance. During 2015, the society provided psychosocial support to 46,000 in Palestine, about half of whom were women.

The Red Crescent focuses its efforts on people affected by emergencies – before, during and immediately after a crisis – as well as the staff and volunteers who work with them. The society establishing a psychosocial support resource centre to provide technical expertise and resources across the region. One of the goals is to train 50 volunteers to contribute to international level. There are already 25 fully trained volunteers that can communicate in Arabic, English and at least one other language.

This wealth of experience is now being used to help other National Societies respond to psychosocial needs in emergency situations.

Amelia Marzal, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) representative for Palestine said: “Palestine Red Crescent Society’s approach is to work as part of the global family, sharing their experienced staff in times of crisis, and ensuring that psychosocial support services provided locally also continue to improve.”

Most recently, volunteers supported the Hellenic Red Cross in their response to the increase in refugees arriving in Greece over recent months.

Dr. Azmi Al Astal, director of the Palestine Red Crescent Society psychosocial department in Gaza, and Dr. Mohamed Bragith, a trained volunteer were deployed to support teams in Greece December and January.

On the island of Lesbos, Dr. Al Astal worked with Hellenic Red Cross and an IFRC emergency response unit (ERU), and Dr. Bragith worked closely with the Spanish Red Cross ERU on Samos and Chios. They worked closely with volunteers to support migrants arriving on the shores, or living in temporary camps. For migrants, they provided psychosocial first aid, met youth detainees, participated in restoring family links activities, contributed to ensure safe places for children, and helped to translate information into Arabic.

Reflecting on his experience on the Greek islands, Dr. Al Azmi said: “I listened to many people; I felt they often were in despair, but many also marveled of the kind treatment of the staff and volunteers. I saw moments where parents could scarcely believe that they were safe following a family’s dangerous journey across the water.”

The two Red Crescent experts also worked with volunteers from the Hellenic Red Cross to build awareness and understanding about Arab culture and to share basic concepts of psychosocial first aid. They also gave advice and guidance to the volunteers on how to to manage the stress and emotions caused by psychological traumatic experiences.

Drs. Al Azmi and Al Bragith’s work with Hellenic Red Cross was not the first time that Palestine Red Crescent Society have sent their trained experts to work closely with other National Societies in times of crisis. The society has well-established credibility in the field of psychosocial support throughout the MENA region, and beyond, thanks to on the ground experience and evidence-based development of their approaches.

Palestine Red Crescent Society psychosocial experts worked throughout North Africa during the 2012 popular uprisings, on the Libya-Tunisia border following the evacuation of foreign nations from Libya, and in other regional emergencies during the past 10 years. The National Society also provides training for staff and volunteers of other National Societies to respond to the psychosocial needs of people affected by natural disasters and other emergencies in their own countries.