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Scarcity: Why Having So Little Means So Much

Scarcity: Why Having So Little Means So Much

Posted by kmacd on 21 Nov 2013
I just finished a fascinating book on scarcity. It's called Scarcity:Why Having Too Little Means So Much. A review of the book is linked here. The book examines scarcity in all forms. Scarcity of food, love and time. There are a lot of important lessons for people who work in programs that aim to improve the lives in resource poor communities. It discusses how when people's "bandwidth" is taxed by the challenges of their lives due to poverty and hungry it can make it especially difficult for them to access services that are available to them (eating better, remembering to get their child vaccinated, taking medications regularly etc) and how our programs can take this into consideration.
Has anyone else come across this book. Did you find it useful in the work that you do?

Building a little fat into the system -- resilience and scarcity

Posted by mdecoster on 22 Nov 2013

Kathleen, what a nice coincidence!  A lot of us here at the FSN Network Knowledge Sharing meeting in Burkina Faso have been talking about this book.  And, it ties in to our sessions about resilience very nicely. 

I have always believed that the poor have very good reasons for what they do – that there is internal logic to behaviors that seem, from the outside, to be illogical.  This book really helps to make that clear, and is so non-judgmental about how we don’t make the best decisions when we are overloaded with stress due to scarcity. 

Some of our resilience discussions have mirrored points in the book, about how helpful it is to have a little “extra” built into the system – a little extra time, or money, or a little extra social capital, to fall back on during tough times.  We’ve been talking about how it goes further than that – a little extra weight on a child is protective during famine,  a few “extra” animals help a pastoralist get through the drought, and so on.   

Two areas  I’d like to hear more about from others would be – what are ways that people can build up a little extra in the psychosocial support / mental health area, to have a little cushion or buffer against devastating shocks during tragedies and shocks?  What would help build emotional resilience to help prevent crippling levels of depression when shocks (such as the disaster in the Philippines) come? 

Then, on social capital in general – it’s an area that cuts both ways – having a large network helps people survive devastating losses, but also prevents families from being able to have any savings.  For example, from Haiti, if you have rice and your neighbor or relative is at your door because they don’t have rice you give them rice.  No question.  So, you may be rich in social capital, but unable to save anything. What do we do with that little conundrum? 


Answer from a Mental health Advisor regarding MH DRR

Posted by Alexandra Rutishauser-Perera on 9 Dec 2013

I mentionned this question to the Mental Health Adviser in my organisation and here is her response:

"Unfortunately there are not any solid evidence based methods to prevent people from developing MH problems as a result of disaster and crises. The best advice would be to ensure a supportive environment and provision of needed services at all levels during an emergency and to provide training and create MHPSS supportive services as part of DRR. The basic principles of this are outlined in the 2007 IASC MHPSS guidelines but the attached is also comprehensive and helpful for lay people (and based on global guidance).

Training for health staff, counselors etc. should be comprehensive for all (and not only emergent induced) MH problems."


Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Disaster Situations

Posted by Patrick Coonan on 10 Dec 2013

I added the tool that you mentioned in the resource library of the FSN Network, Alex. 

Here's a link to the PAHO resource on "Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Disaster Situations in the Caribbean" in case any other NALAN members want to check it out:

On Mary's question, although we may not have much evidence for how best to prevent mental health problems in times of emergency or crisis as Alex notes, I wonder if there is room to foster resilience by building communities' capacity to recognize mental health problems early on, to be supportive of those with a mental health problem, and to be more open to accepting help. I'm not experienced enough to know what this looks like in practice, but it seems like this would promote set the stage for MH problems to be identified and addressed more quickly in a supportive environment. Not sure what kind of resources and human capital it would take to pull this off.



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