‘Flood trauma can affect health of Kashmir children’

Images of flood can have psychological repercussions on them: Experts

With thousands of families in flood-affected areas of Kashmir continuing to remain displaced and a humanitarian crisis looming large, children are being seen as worst sufferers of the calamity.
The flood, which killed hundreds, left thousands of people homeless and bruised the psyche of millions, is particularly seen to have a lasting impact on the psychology and general healthcare of children, according to studies and experts.
Analysts also believe that if basic amenities like food, shelter and medicine are not provided to the affected children, it will affect them badly in future given the images of devastation embedded in their minds.
“The trauma has happened,” says Dr Arshad Hussain, a noted psychiatrist. “And right now what the affected people need is relief and rehabilitation including food, shelter and medicine. But if we fail on these counts, the repercussions could be shocking.”
Citing findings of a snowstorm that struck Waltengo Nar village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag (Islamabad) district in 2005, Dr Arshad said the trauma remained intact among people for months.
The snowstorm had killed 162 persons and people were starved off of the humanitarian aid for several years.
This month’s flood has been termed as a disaster of “international magnitude” by the government and which affected more than a  million people across Kashmir.
“We are assessing how many children were affected by the flood,” Secretary of Social Welfare Department Muhammad Shafi Rather told Greater Kashmir.
He said international aid agencies including Save the Children are also surveying the impact of flood on children.
Studies have revealed that after natural calamities like floods and earthquakes, children are likely to be affected in various capacities and that because of lack of facilities they could also fall prey to diseases.
“The impact of disaster on children are mediated by many factors including personal experience, developmental competency, parental reaction, gender and the level of disaster response,” Vranda M. N. and S. Seker of the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences Hospital, Bangalore, have written in the Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology.
“Floods carry greater risks to psychological as well as physical health of children,” they note.
“[Our] results showed the children showed higher level of intrusion and avoidance aftermath of floods.”
Dr Arshad, however, said, “In our culture, people have the ability to cope up with the disasters because of social cooperation.” But he added that if government lags behind in the relief measures, the image of floods might have psychological repercussions on people particularly children.
“Also adults have to behave in a proper way,” the psychiatrist said. “Parents need to play with children and build a friendly environment. That is how trauma can be overcome.”
DrRubeena, Health Officer of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), also noted that the large-scale devastation due to floods can have a psychological impact on children and that the “unclean environment” could affect their health.

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