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Social Development

Breaking Down the Silos: Reflection on the “Invisible Wounds” Meeting

Mike Wessells's picture

Speaking as a psychosocial practitioner-researcher, the World Bank's recent “Invisible Wounds” conference, which enabled a rich dialogue between psychologists and the Bank's economically-oriented staff, was a breath of fresh air. In most war zones, humanitarian efforts to provide mental health and psychosocial support and economic aid to vulnerable people have frequently been conducted in separate silos. Unfortunately, this division does not fit with the interacting psychosocial and economic needs seen in war zones, and it misses important opportunities for strengthening supports for vulnerable people.
 
A case in point comes from my work (together with Susan McKay, Angela Veale, and Miranda Worthen) on the reintegration of formerly recruited girl mothers in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and northern Uganda. These girls had been powerfully impacted by their war experiences, which included displacement, capture, sexual violence, exposure to killing and deaths, and mothering, among others. After the ceasefire, they were badly stigmatized as “rebel girls” and were distressed over their inability to meet basic needs and to be good mothers. The provision of economic aid alone would likely have had limited effects since the girls believed that they were not fit for economic activity (many saw themselves as spiritually contaminated and as having “unsteady minds”), and they were so stigmatized that people would not do business with them. Similarly, the provision of psychosocial assistance alone likely would have had limited effects because the girls desperately needed livelihoods in order to reduce their economic distress and be good mothers.

Trauma and Psychosocial Well-being: Is it our Business?

Alys Willman's picture

Here is a situation that’s happened to me; maybe it’s happened to you, too. You’re on mission, finishing up a meeting.  You’re closing your notebook, your head’s in the next meeting already, and one of the people you’ve just met with asks if you have a second.

Before you can react, she’s telling you her story. It’s a very difficult story, full of experiences you can’t imagine living through yourself. She seems to have gone back into the story in her mind – her eyes are focused beyond you, her hands tremble, and her eyes water.

Assuming you are not a trained social worker, it’s likely you have few skills you can immediately draw on to help her. And you wonder how many others like her are facing similar circumstances. 

What does any of this have to do with our business? Our work brings us into contact with people and groups that have experienced extremely stressful events and situations – from grinding poverty, to forced displacement, war and natural disasters. We come into contact with some of the most wounded and most resilient people in the world. While that strength helps them survive in the face of huge challenges, these “invisible wounds” – if not addressed – take a huge toll on them and their loved ones.

How do we Develop a “Science of Delivery” for CDD in Fragile Contexts?

Janmejay Singh's picture

Imagine you are a development practitioner in a country just coming out of conflict and you have just been put in charge of designing a community driven development (CDD) operation there.

After decades of war, you are faced with a country that has crumbling infrastructure, extremely high unemployment rates, weak local governance systems, perhaps even a vast population internally displaced or worse still, exposed to violence. Where do you begin fixing the problem? What would you prioritize? Do you begin by rebuilding and providing public goods, and hope that it would eventually re-establish the broken trust between the state and its people? Or do you directly tackle trust building first? Or perhaps you could do them simultaneously, but how would you go about doing that?