The Dutch Surge Support (DSS) water programme offers humanitarian aid in disaster situations. DSS employs mostly Dutch aquatic experts to mitigate the consequences of disasters. DSS experts specialize in preventing disasters, preparing for them, and recovering from them. Traditionally, many men work in the humanitarian water sector. The last few years, however, DSS has employed and increasing amount of women in crisis situations.

DSS connects experts, specialized in water management and crisis response, to humanitarian organisations  currently providing aid. These experts are often Dutch and work in crisis areas around the world on behalf of DSS. Over the past few years, more and more of these experts have been women.


In 2020, DSS launched a new program to offer mental healthcare and psychosocial support (MHPSS) to people in disaster areas. This program also employs experts in crisis areas to coordinate and support the MHPSS aid.

The number of women employed within the MHPSS program is almost equal to the number of men. For example, the Kenyan expert Teresa Ombalo moved to Ethiopia for the MHPSS program. There, she worked on fostering public support for the measures taken against Covid-19. Working from the capital of Addis Ababa, she quickly set up an effective policy to curb the spread of the disease.

Work as passion

“As a woman, you have to make sure you are on top of the security situation and curfew hours,” Ombalo says. “But most challenges and opportunities for women and men are pretty much equal. I do this work because it’s my passion, and I love it. I’ve met many men and women who are passionate about their work.”

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One of her main challenges is making sure people understand what mental health is. “There’s no magical pill to make people feel better,” Ombalo says. “I have to convince people that they have to participate to get better. Many people in Africa don’t have the same frame of reference with regards to mental health and PTSD.”

The Power of MHPSS

That is why Ombalo stresses it is so important to stay up to date in her field of work. “People have to see the results of your work,” Ombalo says. “They will recognize your expertise. So you have to know your stuff. Focus on your strength, and the strength of MHPSS, and build on that. Stay on top of your game, every day.”

Dutch Surge Support (DSS) water

DSS is an initiative of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO) administers DSS together with the Netherlands Red Cross and the Netherlands Water Partnership (NWP). This aid aims to employ Dutch water-related expertise to keep regions habitable and save lives in case of disasters.

Dutch Surge Support (DSS) MHPSS

In 2020, at the behest of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, DSS launched its Mental Health and Psychosocial Support program. This program is run by the RVO together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Red Cross. At the request of international humanitarian organisations , DSS MHPSS contracts mental health experts and deploys them to crisis areas.

More information on DSS MHPSS can be found at