Trauma will remain long after floods have gone

Wajid Ali and his family. Caritas Pakistan/Kamran Chaudhry

By Kamran Chaudhry, Caritas Pakistan

Something of increasing concern to Caritas is the growing trauma among Pakistan’s flood victims and its need to be addressed.

“Most of the internally displaced people are poor peasants. Many are severally depressed after seeing their mud houses collapsing, evacuating in a panic and living besides roads or in refugee camps for the past two months,” says Riaz Nawab of Caritas Pakistan in Karachi. “The government must arrange adequate psychiatrists besides providing general medical assistance.”

Wajid Ali, 26, suffered a nervous breakdown soon after his family was shifted to a government run college turned refugee camp in Karachi.
“Our eight year old son died of electrocution the day raging waters entered our village. A wire from an electricity pole broke and fell on him. He died in a few moments,” said his young wife.

Ali now weeps often and gestures towards the sky while sitting on a mattress with his family. “Allah, Allah,” he utters clasping his sleeves into fists. A few utensils and some bedding are now their only possessions. His young wife is worried about money and the future of his second son.

Muhammad Ashraf, another survivor, says the massive floods left an unforgettable impact on his whole family. “Crossing my flooded village by boat, I try to avoid the spot where my 18 year old son drowned,” he said. The accident occurred in early August in Khan Bela, a village in south Punjab province.

Both Ashraf and Ali are among 20.25 million people affected by the floods which have affected 78 districts across the country. Over 1.9 million houses have been damaged or destroyed.

Caritas has boosted its appeal for funds for the Pakistan floods to Euros 10 million (US$ 12 million) to reach 350,000 people. Besides giving material help in the form of food, water, shelter and medicine, Caritas is also providing counselling and psychological help.

“We have heard of several cases of mental illness in relief camps. Yesterday, one person was killed in a rampage during a food distribution at a camp in Kotri, Sindh province”, says Nadim Mattu of Caritas Pakistan in Hyderabad.

“The government has started providing compensation money to each family but has not presented a concrete rehabilitation plan yet. People are at loss to what lies ahead,” he added.

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Filed under Asia, Conflicts and Disasters, Emergencies, Emergencies in Pakistan, Pakistan

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