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Stress and psychosocial support for humanitarian personnel who work with child protection in emergencies.

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There is a high percentage of returning humanitarian personnel suffering from PTSD, burn out, psychosocial distress and secondary traumatisation. The 2012 study by the Aid Security Database saw the highest exposure of humanitarian personnel to life threatening situations. However a review of literature has shown that it is the accumulative exposure to the day-to-day stresses that has resulted in an unprecedented percentage of humanitarian staff suffering with distress, PTSD and burn out. This dissertation examines the different themes that humanitarian personnel experience in regard to psychosocial distress. The experiences of humanitarian workers appear to follow a rhetoric of feeling overwhelmed, lacking teamwork, role confusion resulting in disappointment to reach goals, ethical dilemmas, a heavy workload and limited preparation for the work and the conditions. Other stresses included are chronic fatigue, separation from family, and lack of adequate resources or skills for the expected job. In conjunction with this is the exposure to life threatening situations, where there is a daily risk of physical harm and injury, constant exposure to danger, chronic fear and uncertainty and a sense of helplessness. A review of the literature also found that the following positive aspects lessened the prevalence of PTSD in humanitarian workers. These were, self-efficacy, family support, positive job-related feelings such as satisfaction and accomplishment, adequate training and team support. The study is conducted through two theoretical frameworks, the first is general systems theory and the second, Moos‟s stress and coping theory. These two theories emphasise the importance of the environment, the context, overlapping variables and factors in order to offer adequate psychosocial support that maintains the wellbeing of the worker. The Moos stress and coping theory emphasises the current coping mechanisms that humanitarian personnel are utilising to recognise what else can be incorporated to ensure psychosocial wellbeing. This research is conducted to introduce a psychosocial wellbeing response for humanitarian organisations and personnel who work with child protection in emergency.


M. Soc. Sc. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2014.


Child disaster victims--Protection., Child welfare workers--Job stress., Post-traumatic stress disorder., Humanitarian assistance., Humanitarian assistance., Stress (Psychology), Theses--Conflict resolution and peace studies.