Whenever there are disasters/emergencies, conflicts/on-going conflicts and health emergencies and people lose their relatives, friends or homes and livelihood, there will be human suffering. Such emergencies impose heavy emotional, social, and spiritual burdens on children and their families that are associated with death, separation and loss of parents and caregivers, disruption of organized patterns of living and meaning, attack and victimization, destruction of homes, and economic ruin. In these situations, children’s development is disrupted, security and trust in humankind threatened, and a sense of hope for the future undermined.
Providing psychosocial support in these circumstances reflects the principles and values of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement. The RCRC believes that the psychological and social aspects of humanitarian assistance to children and their families are necessary components in responding to the overall developmental needs of children in complex emergency situations. For that, the RCRC fundamental aim of psychosocial programming is to improve children’s well-being by:
Restoring the normal flow of development;
Protecting children and community members from the accumulation of distressful and harmful events;
Enhancing the capacity of families, other caregivers and professionals, communities and community leaders to care for their children;
Enabling children to be active agents in rebuilding communities and in actualizing positive futures.
Armed conflicts, as the situation in Palestine, cause significant psychological and social suffering to affected populations. The psychological and social impacts of conflict may be acute in the short term, but they can also undermine the long-term mental health and psychosocial well-being of the affected population. These impacts may threaten peace, human rights and development; create a wide range of problems experienced at the individual, family, community and social levels. At every level, conflict interrupts the normal protective support systems, increase the risks of diverse problems and tend to amplify pre-existing problems of social injustice and inequality. One of the priorities in conflict situation is thus to protect and improve people’s mental health and psychosocial well-being (IASC Guidelines).
The Palestine Red Crescent Society, since it establishment in 1968, has been providing psychosocial services to Palestinian refugees in Lebanon and the Diaspora through its different departments such as Primary Health Care, Rehabilitation, and Social Services departments. The psychosocial services at that time were mainly to provide the basic needs for the most vulnerable Palestinian refugees. After the Oslo agreement and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, the PRCS moved its headquarters to Palestine. In 1992 the psychosocial department was established as one of the major departments within PRCS. The main focus of the services was providing psychosocial support to PRCS’s emergency medical staff. After the beginning of the second Palestinian Intifada, PRCS expanded its psychosocial interventions in the West Bank and Gaza.
In 2002 and as a result of the on-going conflict and its impact on the Palestinian families in general and the children in particular, PRCS started implementing a school based psychosocial program CABAC (Children Effected by Armed Conflict). The CABAC program was focusing on providing psychosocial interventions to children and contributes to the capacity building of teachers and school counselors.
Building on the experience of PRCS psychosocial department during the implementation of CABAC, working with parents, families, and caregivers will enhance their coping and resilience mechanisms and also the needed support they provide to their children; for that in 2004, PRCS introduced additional psychosocial program “Love Bridge”. This program focused on providing psychosocial and psycho-educational interventions for parents, families and caregivers throughout the West Bank. The Love Bridge was also connected to the families of the children who are benefiting from CABAC.
Providing psychosocial services for children and their families without working with the additional supporting systems within their communities will not get the ultimate outcomes from these projects. For that, in 2004, and as a continuation of the PSD development, PRCS worked on developing a center based psychosocial program with outreach to the community. Two psychosocial centers where opened for that reason, one in Hebron and the other one in Khan Younes. The work within CABAC methodology and the Love Bridge continued and additional services were brought into the centers to reach a wider target groups. Through the centers, psychosocial activities for children, youth, volunteers, families, community members and community leaders were implemented.
In 2010, PRCS’s psychosocial department has been working on developing a strategic plan for 2010-2015 based on the lessons learnt from their years of experience. This strategic plan will be part of PRCS’s overall strategy. One of the major components of this plan was to change the psychosocial department to a psychosocial program, this has to deal with the belief that the psychosocial component should be cross cutting all the different departments. PRCS decided to have all the psychosocial staff, social workers and case managers to be in one department with one management hierarchy. This will strengthen PRCS’s methodology in providing holistic services to the communities and will make the linkage between the different departments. This strategy will be implemented throughout the psychosocial centers in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.