Rebuilding includes physical and mental health of children too

 

trauma1While more and more aid and other relief essentials coming from the international community are being distributed to those heavily affected by the devastation wrought by super typhoon some two weeks ago, especially in the eastern islands of Leyte and Samar, talks about rebuilding communities are thick in the air.

With an estimated number of 4.3 million displaced people it will really take a lot of money, a number of years and herculean effort to have families back living in their own abodes again.

I have no problem with that. They sooner government, and whoever else offer to work with government, whether local or foreign entities, do it, the better.

My only concern is that as they start embarking on this homestead project, that they won’t forget the human side of it – and that is rebuilding also the physical and mental health of people resulting from their harrowing experience with the killer typhoon that continues to cause them trauma, especially the most vulnerable of them all – the children.

It is bad enough hearing a UN representative describing how children, among others, are at risk of malnutrition in typhoon-ravaged areas of the country and that a huge numbers of people are still exposed to bad weather in the nine provinces devastated by super typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan – to include children of course.

“I am very concerned that some 1.5 million children are at risk of acute malnutrition and close to 800,000 pregnant and nursing mothers need nutritional help,” Valerie Amos, UN humanitarian chief, said at the UN headquarters in New York City after a trip to the Philippines.

What would you expect if, in their wretched and miserable condition, what reached them and are eating all the time are noodles and canned sardines?

A huge international relief operation was launched after the storm, but Amos said: “Much more needs to be done. Food, clean water and shelter remain the top priorities.”

traumaThis is the same thing I heard from my daughter, a psychologist and a child life specialist, who was invited by the ABS-CBN’s Salamat Dok staff for a medical mission in the suburbs of Tacloban City. Her job was to help children cope with the psychological trauma inflicted on them by super typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan. But, what can a few days of interaction with the kids do when what is needed is more time of play therapy for them to cope with the reality of what has happened?

This is what is making the situation of the children in Tacloban and suburbs worse – the lack of trained counselors to deal with their afflictions.

It is good that child-friendly spaces are being set up in Northern Cebu, another area badly hit by the killer typhoon to give children a place to play, learn, and recover from the trauma suffered.

Dr. Yvonne Duque, a health expert for World Vision in the Philippines, explained: “Child Friendly Spaces are a safe place for children to express themselves and start coming to terms with what has happened – often by explaining their emotions through artwork. They start drawing their surroundings, where they live, and this starts helping them understand why this happened. The healing process will take years and it’s crucial to start right now.”

This is simply the way to rebuild the physical and mental health of children.

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