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The need for disaster social work management

The importance of mental health services increased over the years and mental health has been included in various international policies and national legislation.

During disasters, a person’s state of well-being is affected and therefore, it is essential to include mental health services during disaster risk management that focus on the protection and restoration of affected community members and humanitarian service providers.

Globally, one in five (22.1%) people living in areas affected by conflict is estimated to have a mental health condition (Charlson F. et al., 2019). The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak highlighted the need for disaster social work. Social workers can provide valuable holistic mental health and psychosocial assistance to vulnerable groups. In South Africa, COVID-19 placed increased pressure on social workers to render essential services to vulnerable groups with limited resources.

Research conducted in Mangaung, Free State, among social workers regarding the services they had rendered from 27 March to 30 September 2020 indicated that the most vulnerable groups had not received adequate services.  The research result suggested that social workers were unaware of significant legislation, guidelines and protocols for disaster social work and therefore, a training need was identified.

Free State Care in Action capacitated some of their social workers and auxiliary social workers with knowledge about disaster social work management and skills on how to render essential humanitarian services to vulnerable groups during hazards, crises and disasters.

The training on disaster management was presented by Mariëtte Joubert, a PhD scholar at the Disaster Management Training and Education for Africa (DiMTEC), University of the Free State on 17 March 2023 at Free State Care in Action Head Office. One key aspect that was focused on in the training was working collaboratively in multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary teams.

The social workers and auxiliary social workers illustrated that they understood this concept and know how to implement it practically. After the training, one of the motor vehicles did not want to start, creating a small crisis. All the participants came together and started pushing the motor vehicle in a collective attempt to get it started. Through teamwork, they managed to get the motor vehicle started, creating a sense of togetherness and achievement.