“For me, working locally made a real difference”

“COVID-19 has hit Latin America hard. Since the start of this pandemic, more than 58 million people have been infected here. Nearly 1.4 million people have died from it. The region is home to more than 1 in 4 cases and a third of the world’s coronavirus deaths. COVID-19 has disrupted daily routines, forcing millions into months-long isolation. It has devastated economies and caused an unimaginable loss of life, also in Latin America.

Disruptive impact of the pandemic

Surveys from several countries show that the pandemic has increased the stress levels for a lot of people. They are battling anxiety and depression. Furthermore, the pandemic has seriously disrupted MHPSS services. They have become unavailable to those who urgently need them. The PAHO (regional office of the WHO) approach in MHPSS response in Latin America has focused on strengthening countrywide MHPSS coordination mechanisms by:

  • developing and adapting communications materials on MHPSS for the general population and vulnerable groups;
  • improving/expanding effective MHPSS service provision; and
  • supporting remote MHPSS service platforms and surveillance systems.

Adjusting to a new role

It was clear that the situation in Latin America created the need for an MHPSS expert. The DSS MHPSS programme selected me to start working in Perú. Unfortunately, I was unable to travel, so I had to work from home in Madrid. Adapting to the time zone was just one challenge. Fully understanding the context of the complex situation was the second. Thanks to a wonderful and welcoming team, I managed to work with focal points in Latin American countries. I set up online training courses to strengthen MHPSS skills and expand services to reach more people.

MHPSS professionals frequently feel isolated in their fieldwork. For me, working locally made a real difference. I truly feel I have added value by exchanging knowledge and good practices. Working as a team motivated me even more as an MHPSS professional.

After nearly 6 months of deployment, I am happy to say that I will continue my support of the PAHO MHPSS COVID-19 response. I will continue my consultancy until the end of the year. This gives me the unique opportunity to build on the training courses and continue my support in countries that are strengthening their MHPSS Response.

I am super proud of being part of the DSS MHPSS programme that aims to provide emergency relief support in a humanitarian and emergency context.”