While psychosocial interventions to promote resilience and prevent mental health concerns in children after a disaster are used in humanitarian responses around the world, data supporting these interventions has been lacking. The recent study “Trauma Functioning and Well-Being in Children Who Receive Mental Health Aid after Natural Disaster or War” published in the journal Children evaluates the effectiveness of the early psychosocial intervention, OperationSAFE.
Data from 158 OperationSAFE camps involving 16,758 children in ten humanitarian crises in five nations over a period of five years was analyzed showing an improvement in trauma-related functioning/well-being scores with large effect sizes. The study found that the improvement of symptoms was similar for boys and girls and slightly greater with increased age, that time between a disaster and the start of the camp did not reduce the effectiveness of the camp, and that children who had experienced man-made disasters such as wars benefitted more from the intervention.
Leveraging the model of vacation bible schools, a common faith-based community activity, local community leaders and volunteers are trained to deliver the intervention, where” But it is not just the content that helps children recover from mass trauma. "For many of the children, adults around them have been serious, fearful, and anxious. From the opening event, children see from the actions and expressions of the adults that they can play, laugh, and enjoy themselves, i.e., they are safe.” OperationSAFE camps are currently being mobilized in response to the Ukrainian refugee crisis in Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.