Children and the Sphere standard on mental and social aspects of health

Most of the world’s children live in resource­poor countries where people are at a relatively high risk of exposure to catastrophic situations arising from conflict and natural disasters.2 Given the potential social,psychological and psychiatric consequences of exposure to disaster,mental health and psychosocial support programmes are increasingly part of humanitarian aid.A minimum standard on mental and social aspects of health is included in the recently revised Humanitarian Charter and Mini- mum Standards in Disaster Response (Sphere Handbook) (Sphere Project, 2004). Most recommendations for mental health and psychosocial interventions in guidance documents are based on expert opinion rather than research. Consequently, interventions are being implemented without full understanding of their potential benefit or harm.This paper offers a child­focused review of the evidence for each of the interventions described as indicators for the Sphere standard on mental and social aspects of health. It suggests some, but limited, support for each of them. However, the evidence base needs substantial strengthening.

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