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Aid for aid workers

1st July 2011

A UK university is running a specialist course to help aid workers deal with the emotional impact of working in disaster zones.

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While rebuilding communities in places such as Haiti – which was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2010 – remains the top priority for aid workers, they are also now being reminded to consider their own emotional well-being.

The course at the University of East London endeavours to enable workers to better understand and deal with the long-lasting psychological effects that working in the field can have on them.

Course leader Dr Sarah Davidson said that being better aware of how to look after themselves makes people better informed about how to look after other people.

A former vice chairman of the British Red Cross and its current psychological adviser, she added: “People adopt difficult habits, long working hours and burn out. It's as important to look after oneself as it is to look after the people you are responding to.”

The course consists mainly of distance-learning, which allows aid workers recuperating away from troubled areas to communicate with those in the midst of a crisis.

“The distance-learning part of the course enables people to be on it before they're deployed, whilst they're deployed and when they come back,” added Dr Davidson.

Another issue aid workers often face, she said, is being unable to discuss their minor stresses and worries after seeing at first hand so much suffering and distress in parts of the world that have been affected by major disasters.

 

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