In Latin America and the Caribbean, many people suffered serious consequences from contracting the Zika virus. The virus’ impact goes far beyond affecting physical health: it has important psychological and social implications, such as generating fear, stress, feelings of rejection, discrimination and exclusion for having to deal with the disease. Despite often going unnoticed, these implications have a huge impact on communities.

It is for this reason that psychosocial support is one of the main pillars of intervention of the Community Action on Zika (CAZ) Project. This type of support allows individuals, families and communities to strengthen their resilience, supporting the healing process from the damage caused by Zika and helping to rebuild social structures that were weakened because of the virus.

“The emotional impact is particularly pronounced in parents and relatives of babies with congenital Zika syndrome. For these people, knowing that there’s someone they can count on is important; the support they receive helps their acceptance and recovery process and makes them feel more comfortable,” explained Ana Carolina Picado, expert in Psychological support for Zika for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

To be able to offer psychosocial support and care to people affected by Zika in an effective manner, volunteers that work with communities must know the basic principles that guide humanitarian action and, above all, must have knowledge and skills in the field of psychosocial support addressing Zika and complications that arise from it.

To this end, Dominican Red Cross’ volunteers and staff from Save the Children took part in a training course on psychosocial support organized in mid-May in the Dominican Republic. The course introduced the participants to the basic concepts of psychosocial support and psychosocial care and presented IFRC’s strategy to tackle Zika. Moreover, it allowed participants to get a grasp of techniques to face grief and loss, and to learn about the special support that pregnant women, their partner, and parent of new-borns need.

“I think this was a very interesting and useful experience of exchanging and learning amongst actors that implement social intervention activities. We acquired new skills and tools to tackle psychosocial support in the Zika context in an effective and responsible way,” Alberto Jimenez, CAZ project assistant from Save the Children said, adding that: “We work with and for the people, not with machines. For this reason, this focus is extremely important”.

This was the first time that psychosocial support for Zika was tackled within the CAZ project’s implementation framework in the Dominican Republic. The training provided a first introduction to the subject and allowed volunteers to acquire knowledge and skills to replicate the information received in communities across the country.

The Community Action on Zika Project is an initiative of Save the Children and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, that is possible thanks to the generous support of American people thought Agency for International Development (USAID).