Partially collapsed buildings in Nepal after earthquakes in 2015.
by Saugat Gautam
The mishap of a catastrophic earthquake has left the entire country of Nepal in deep sorrow, grief, and pain. The Nepalese people and the civil society, however, have sprung into action quickly, helping each other and demonstrating a strong sense of resilience. Government institutions, Nepal Army, Armed Police Force, NGOs, INGOs, and other relief organizations are actively involved in disaster management. Similarly, most of the community members, youth groups, civil society members, and media personnel and international community are playing an active and constructive role at the moment. At this point in time, social workers (referring to those who are social work graduates or who hold degrees in social work and those who are studying social work) are also playing a vital role or are willing to play a significant role to assure things are going right and needy people are connected to the resources they need. Like every other member of society, social workers are playing an instrumental role in the disaster management process.
The time has definitely come for social workers to demonstrate their learning and knowledge and put what they have studied into practice. Nepal currently has more than 50 social work colleges running under multiple universities, and we have a good number of graduates and enrolled students who can become integral actors in the disaster management process. The way work is going for the disaster relief, social workers can become an efficient factor in the whole process that will multiply the effectiveness and serve those in need. Social work is different from science and art and holds the unique ability to assess the situation and choose the best intervention that suits the individual and community, along with various crisis intervention tools. Let us overview some strategies that are possible through social work:
Social workers will help in awareness campaigns about disaster using various communication tools.
Social workers are trained in such a way that they know or they understand that situations and conditions need to be assessed before jumping into action. And based on their findings, they can create or assist in public awareness campaigns about relevant subject matter through various means of communication. Every society may not have access to mass and social media, so using both formal and informal communication tools, such as puppet shows, street drama, and picture displays can be handy. For instance, different campaigns can be launched regarding prevention of epidemic outbreaks using various means of communication according to the target audience.
Social workers can play a vital part in providing psychological support.
For example, social workers can provide ounseling for disaster survivors. We have few counselors in our country, and in such scenarios, where social workers know the basics (dos and don’ts) of counseling, this could be an additional tool in the helping process.
Social workers can assist in assessment of the impact of disaster.
Social workers will not only use their skills to assess seen impact, but will design the diagram that, in fact, will be multidimensional and do the SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity and threat) analysis. They will find out the community capability to manage disaster.
Involving community in disaster management activities
The concept of participation or a participatory approach has always been considered one of the important means that generate feelings of ownership among community members. Social workers can play a role of motivator, enabler, and mediator to involve community members to be a part of the disaster management process. Social workers will make things happen by the resource mobilization through social and human capital. Social workers believe change is sustainable if we have proper participation and ownership.
Educators, researchers, and volunteers
In crisis, it is important that we have researchers and educators who will educate people about what is required based on their quick research. Also, social workers have a strong sense of volunteerism and believe change is possible through volunteerism, so they probably can work with voluntary organizations in relief works and also involve themselves as volunteers.
Coordination after sharp observation
Social workers, working with the team and beneficiaries, observe community behavior and assess the needs, suggesting the possible intervention (help). In this way, they can become efficient actors to coordinate for the exact help needed using the skill of networking. Social workers often link needy communities with financial and public institutions that include international organizations.
Long Term Crisis Intervention.
Social workers will stay with the community, be with the people, and prioritize their primary needs to tertiary needs and do what is needed, using various strategies that are community friendly. It is seen that during crisis, there are high chances of conflict, and social workers can prevent potential conflict and mitigate conflict, too. Hence, the focus will be on team building and community coordination.
This is a time of immediate response, and the addition of social workers to the team will definitely boost the output and be worthy. This is a high time when social workers' potential is identified and utilized properly. Many social workers have already been a part of a few teams and are into action right now. That number needs to be increased, so we can recover soon and revitalize our situation.
Saugat Gautam is a social work graduate from Kathmandu University and currently working as the instructor at School of Social Sciences at Thames International College, Kathmandu.