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Supporting Children and Families Following Emergencies

Supporting Children and Families in the Aftermath of Emergencies & Disasters

Recent devastating earthquakes, such as those in Japan, Myanmar and Ecuador, underscore the importance of a well-prepared social service workforce ready to provide critical emergency relief services for children and families. Coordination is key to ensure an integrated approach to the provision of psychosocial and mental health support and protection services. 

Social service workers play a critical role in the immediate aftermath of disasters  by ensuring protection from violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect and providing needed services to care for and support those who have been impacted. They help to prevent and respond to trafficking and exploitation; reunite separated and unaccompanied children with their families and where necessary, place them in alternative care or coordinate shelter; enable access to education and health care; and provide critical psychosocial support and promote the resilience of children and families.

During emergency response situations, it is important that the social service workforce follow important standards that have been developed to guide psychosocial and mental health response in emergencies.

The Minimum Standards for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action (CPMS), finalized in 2012 by the Child Protection Working Group coordinated by UNICEF under the Global Protection Cluster, aim to establish common principles among those working in child protection, improve the quality of child protection programming, improve accountability within child protection work, provide a synthesis of good practice and learning to date and enable better advocacy and communication on child protection risks, needs and responses. These standards complement the Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response.

Sphere Standards - The Sphere Project produced a handbook of minimum standards to be attained in disaster assistance in each of five key sectors: water supply and sanitation; nutrition; food aid; shelter and health services (including mental health). The handbook was developed through broad-based consultation in the humanitarian community with thousands of individuals from over 400 NGOs, UN agencies, and academic institutions organizations representing 80 countries.

Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) in Emergency Settings - The IASC is the primary United Nations mechanism for inter-agency coordination of humanitarian assistance. The Guidelines enable humanitarian actors to plan, establish and coordinate a set of minimum multi-sectoral responses to protect and improve people’s mental health and psychosocial well-being in the midst of an emergency.

Please feel free to submit descriptions or links to your work in providing emergency assistance here.

Additional resources: Supporting Children in Emergencies Capacity Building Mapping & Market Analysis and Protect My Future: The Links Between Child Protection and Disasters, Conflict and Fragility

Family living in a tent in Nepal after the earthquake; Photo from Yahoo Photos