SOCW6336 WK9 Reading 1

SOCW6336 WK9 Reading 1


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The Aftermath of Humanitarian Crises: A Model for Addressing Social Work Interventions With Individuals, Groups, and Communities

Eileen A. Dombo 1

and Frederick L. Ahearn 2


This article reviews the aftermath of displacement caused by natural calamities such

as hurricanes, earthquakes, and man-made disasters such as war, ecological degrad-

ations, and political, religious, and ethnic persecution. These are traumatic events for

individual, families, and communities that require social work interventions.

Specifically, the authors will (a) explore the effects of displacement on individuals,

families, and communities; (b) propose an explanatory model of the effects of

trauma, loss, stress, and separation on behavioral outcomes as mediated by social

supports and coping styles; and (c) suggest humanitarian intervention strategies

conceptualized by the multilevel public health prevention model, with emphasis on

interventions at the individual, group, and community levels.


disasters, humanitarian interventions, loss, separation, coping, trauma, social work

interventions, psychosocial wellness

Illness, Crisis & Loss

2017, Vol. 25(2) 107–126

! The Author(s) 2015

Reprints and permissions:

DOI: 10.1177/1054137315606830

1 National Catholic School of Social Service, The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, USA

2 Center for International Social Development, National Catholic School of Social Service, The Catholic

University of America, Washington, DC, USA

Corresponding Author:

Eileen A. Dombo, National Catholic School of Social Service, The Catholic University of America,

Washington, DC 20064, USA.

Email: dombo@cua.edu

There has been growing attention to the emotional and psychological plight (behavioral outcomes) of survivors of natural and human-induced disasters. Human displacement is the result of these forces, often beyond the control of individuals, families, and communities, requiring social work interventions within humanitarian settings. One might ask, “What happens to an ordinary individual, group, family, or community who has go through an extraordinary experience?”

This article attempts to answer this query by (a) reviewing the emotional and behavioral effects of displacement on individuals, families, and communities; (b) presenting an explanatory model of the interactive effects of trauma, stress, loss, and separation, as these are mediated by social and emotional supports and one’s coping style; and (c) proposing an array of social work intervention stra- tegies with individuals, groups, and communities viewed through the lens of the public health model of primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of intervention.

Effects of Displacement on Individuals, Families, and Communities

As of 2013, there are an estimated 42.9 million refugees, stateless, and internally displaced persons in the world, the largest number in the past 15 years. The bulk of refugees are found in Africa and the Middle East, while the stateless, mostly Palestinians, are located in the Middle East, and one finds the majority of internally displaced persons in the Americas, especially Columbia and South America (UNHCR Statistics, 2013). Social work practice with these populations has been greatly influenced by the various psychosocial theories popularized in recent years by mental health professionals. These theories are theories of trauma, loss, separation, stress, coping, and social supports. Three of these, loss, separation, and stress, often result from the traumatic experiences that cause displacement and are interactive, often leading to negative psychosocial consequences. We refer to these as the interactive variables. The theories of social support and coping are mediating factors that often soften the effects of the negative outcomes.

Interactive Variables

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