October 8, 2009
Indonesia 2009 © Juan-Carlos Tomasi
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams currently providing medical and relief aid in East Asia and the South Pacific after several natural disasters are integrating mental health care into their activities. More than a week after the traumatic events, mental health staff are beginning to train local counselors, as well as give direct psychological support.
Mourning without corpses in Indonesia
In Indonesia, many people have disappeared and any hope of finding survivors has almost vanished. Bodies are still trapped under the rubble and relatives are waiting. Marlene Lee, an MSF psychologist, provides support to some families in the most affected areas.
Counseling by local volunteers in Samoa
There were fears of more devastation when a tsunami warning was issued on the morning of October 8, after earthquakes struck off Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Thankfully, there was little damage but there was panic on several islands. In the Samoan islands, part of the population again sought refuge on higher ground. It was a week after an earthquake and subsequent tsunami which took 137 lives and destroyed many houses.
“Obviously, people are traumatized,” said Veronique de Clerck, the emergency coordinator in Samoa for MSF, after spending several days evaluating the area that took the full impact of the tsunami on the southern coast of Samoa. “They have lost all their assets and some people have lost a large number of relatives. There was one family who lost 13 members. People need time to mourn and to bury their relatives and friends, but after a few days, they are probably more ready for counseling.”
Difficult living conditions in the Philippines
There are also urgent worries facing people in the Philippines—some of who have not yet received adequate aid or are living in difficult conditions. Thousands of people are still sleeping in evacuation centers and some will probably have to wait several weeks before being able to go back to their homes, as some areas are still flooded. “We are still living in this corridor. It’s noisy, windy...it is not a place for a family,” said one father in an evacuation center in Pasig. Next to him, a woman was anxious because her home had been destroyed. “I don’t know what to do . . . I have lost everything,” she said.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)