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Year : 2008  |  Volume : 6  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 219-227

Humanitarian intervention and cultural translation: a review of the IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings

1 candidate in medical anthropology at Harvard University. She recently completed fieldwork (2005-2008) in Liberia for her dissertation regarding trauma healing and psychosocial intervention in postconflict recovery, entitled ‘Psycho-SocialLiberia: Managing Suffering in Post-Conflict Life’
2 Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor at the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University and Professor of Medical Anthropology in Social Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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In this article, we place the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings' within the historical context of trauma healing and humanitarian intervention. The IASC taskforce has done important work by bringing to the fore the cultural and local experiences of suffering in humanitarian intervention. The guidelines' recognition of suffering and social repair as a holistic experience is a significant boon to applied understandings of populations in crisis. Our critique of the guidelines addresses some aspects of the practical application of mental health and psychosocial care. We highlight (1) the framing of ‘culture’, and (2) the institutional cultures and structural hierarchies of humanitarian intervention. The article concludes with recommendations for integrating a blend of mental health, psychosocial care, and humanitarian intervention into the humanitarian established order.

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