R2HC elrha : strengthening evidence for the scaling of psychological first aid in humanitarian settings

PFA stands for Psychological First Aid. The guidelines on it, which you can download free of charge can be found here. These guidelines were developed by War Trauma Foundation in cooperation with World Health Organisation and World Vision International.

PFA was designed to support both professionals and volunteers who may come into contact with a target group which has been exposed to a shocking event, or multiple shocking events. These might include exposure to violence, disaster, accident or serious illness.

It does not rely upon the availability of highly trained personnel and can be applied by anyone. The PFA approach relies on factors including feeling safe; having access to social, physical and emotional support; and feeling able to help themselves as individuals and communities.

Psychological First Aid (PFA) provides a mechanism to address mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) needs of acutely distressed people affected by humanitarian emergencies.

Since the PFA Guide was published in 2011, it has been widely endorsed by UN agencies and International NGOs, and is frequently deployed in (recent) crisis. In spite of this roll out, the impact of PFA has not yet been systematically evaluated. In order to contribute to the evidence-base with regard to PFA, our research project aims at a systematic evaluation of the impact of PFA in the context of Ebola in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

In Liberia and Sierra Leone, during all phases of the Ebola outbreak (through 2014-2015), widespread PFA training was delivered to Ebola response teams. Our research includes a comprehensive mapping of all PFA-trainings conducted in Liberia and Sierra Leone between April 2014 and March 2016. As part of this mapping, in-depth interviews with PFA trainers and PFA-trained health providers in both countries have been conducted. Additionally, a randomized control trial (RCT) will take place.

By means of this RCT, the impact of PFA training will be empirically assessed across several districts. Project outcomes will lead to the development of a multi-method measurement strategy framework to assess the impact of PFA and guide future processes of PFA roll-out in both countries.

Although this research is informed by recent experiences of PFA in the context of the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and Sierra Leone, the framework will support replication in other humanitarian contexts where PFA is adopted as well.

The project is a joint effort between research partners the Queen Margaret University (Edinburgh, UK), University of Makeni (Makeni, Sierra Leone), Liberia Center for Outcome Research on Mental Health-LiCORMH (Monrovia, Liberia), VU University (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) and War Trauma Foundation.

The research is funded by Elrha’s Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) Programme. The Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) programme aims to improve health outcomes by strengthening the evidence base for public health interventions in humanitarian crises. Visit this website for more information.

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