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India faces manpower crunch in post-disaster situations

Thursday April 07, 2011 06:32:05 PM, IANS

New Delhi: India is least prepared to deal with psycho-social and mental health problems that arise in the aftermath of a natural disaster because of manpower shortage, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) officials said here Thursday.

"India faces a shortage of manpower in dealing with psycho-social problems that arise after disasters," NDMA vice-chairman Shashidhar Reddy said at the national workshop on psycho-social support and mental health services during disasters.

Noting that there is a "disconnect" between planning and implementation of the policies related to disaster management in the country, Reddy said: "It has something to do with the mindsets. We need to evolve a system to deal with it."

The NDMA issued guidelines on Psycho-Social Support on Mental Health Services in Disasters (PSSMHS) in December 2009 which set a timeline of eight years to make India self-reliant in meeting all post-disaster psychological needs of the victims.

"However, nothing much could be done in the past one year, "Reddy added.

"There has been a complete lack of established institutional mechanism for planning and implementation of PSSMHS activities," NDMA Secretary Noor Mohammad said.

"The potential of the district mental health programme for providing PSSMHS needs to be reviewed carefully and an integration of district mental health programmes with primary health centres needs to be attempted," he added.

For every one lakh people in the world, there are 1.2 psychiatrists. However, for India the figure is 0.2. The average number of social workers globally is 0.4 and in India it is 0.03 per one lakh people.

Experts called for developing a multi-layered approach as people are affected in different ways and require different kind of supports.

"Japan has shown the need for an effective programme. There is a need to plan and adopt an integrated and intersectoral approach to address immediate and long term needs in this field," Noor Mohammad said.

"It should be developed as it is the best form of disaster preparedness," he added.

The workshop was organised to assess the level of implementation of the different aspects of guidelines.



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