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Floods haunting traumatized survivors

In the trail of devastation left behind by last year’s devastating floods, thousands of survivors are still grappling with the impact of the disaster.

“Psychological disorders are rampant among flood affected people, with women and children in particular as the most vulnerable in coping with the traumatic experience,” Dr Rabia, a psychologist working with flood affected people in Nowshera District told the media.

Dr Rabia works with Protection and Referral Mechanism Outreach Unit, an initiative Life for All.

Many survivors are said to be suffering from phobias, epilepsy, depression and conversion or seizure disorders.

Dr Rabia said that the women and children are not accepting the fact that their experiences during the floods are now the past history.

She said that they hold sessions with affected people by going to their villages and homes and trying to help them lead a normal life.

“There are several cases of children who before the disaster were very bright students and now performing poorly showing no interest in their studies,” she said.

Dr Rabia recently treated a child who was playing in his house when the flood struck; after witnessing all that ensued, the child developed aquaphobia (fear of water) and was afraid of taking baths, along with a sleeping disorder that stopped him from attending school.

The psychologist said that the child’s family took him to a psychiatrist and after months of counselling and treatment, the child has started attending school again.

She said that treatment of such cases is lengthy and takes at least six months with consistent and regular medication and counselling.

“Women and children who saw this catastrophe unfold before their eyes and were stranded in the flood waters for days are the worst sufferers,” she said.

These women have developed severe depression; having literally seen their valuables and even their homes drift away, the memories still haunt them.

We have dealt with at least 40 different psychological cases at this centre within a month and there are many more out there, she said.

The outreach unit’s focal person Rizwan Paul told the media that they were holding two to three such counselling sessions per week with the community. He said that community officers including psychologists and legal advisers go to the community to raise awareness and help them overcome their fears.

“We usually send female staffers for these sessions as they can easily communicate with women,” he added.

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