Bio-Psychosocial Assessments in Myanmar
26 February 2015
The national organisation with whom we worked, Karuna Myanmar Social Services, works in over 30 internally displaced populations’ (IDP’s) camps in the region. One of their principal objectives is to help relieve the IDP’s levels of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders. In 2014, to support this endeavour, I went to the conflict-affected region of Northern Myanmar to give a community-based training of trainers in bio-psychosocial support (BPSS), informed by human-rights-based approach involving legal and moral obligations and state/partner accountability. The training was planned in 4 phases:
- 2 residential trainings
- 2 periods of distance-based supervision
This training in phases enables trainees to develop their skills, knowledge and inspire their creative capacity to support IDP’s. As part of the participative methodology, with the trainees we gathered ideas to find an appropriate ‘bio-psychosocialist’ approach to make specific observations. The most important element for a BPSS facilitator is to establish trust with the beneficiaries. Baring this principle in mind, and aware that the BPSS facilitators were new in the region, we did not opt for entering the communities with stacks of pens, papers and assessment sheets.
As a team we worked together to organize a series of treasure hunt activities to conduct preliminary assessments in IDP communities. Although we did not have any formal focus group discussions or interviews with the beneficiaries, we paid careful attention to a series of indicators of bio-psychosocial health and illness while doing the activities. We developed observation sheets in our own eyes and had feedback sessions after each BPSS intervention to discuss everyone’s experiences related to our themes of interest:
- Gender-based violence and roles of women and girls;
- Local coping mechanisms;
- Capacity for the communities to organize themselves;
- Levels of youth involvement in the community,
- Role of the elderly;
- Levels of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders;
- Identifying safe spaces for vulnerable populations, and their usage.
The following film takes places at Maina camp close to Myitkyine in Southern Kachin State. At the end of the activity, I asked if anyone would like to say a few words to us and the whole community. Contrary to previous accounts concerning the diminished status of women in Southern Kachin, it was a young lady who stood up and shared her feelings first. Moreover, 2 out of 4 groups for the treasure hunt nominated women, and a young boy was chosen also. This gave us some preliminary indication that, in this camp, women can and want to have a leadership role, and that children also have potential to take on responsibility.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to the IDP’s of Maina camp, the trainees of KMSS and Claudia Gampietri of Intersos who all contributed to the making of this film with their generosity, authenticity and kindness. Enjoy!