IRC Counselors Help Women and Children Deal with Earthquake Trauma and Loss
Tremors continue to cause panic in northern Pakistan where the International Rescue Committee has been providing food, shelter, medical care and counseling to earthquake survivors in the devastated Abbottabad, Manshera, Shangla and Batagram districts. Last night, traumatized survivors and IRC staff members were jolted awake by one of the heaviest aftershocks since the October 8 quake.
IRC staff members in Manshera report that many survivors have been afraid to seek shelter inside buildings and instead sit outside, even in rainy weather. They say that most of the women and children they see are walking around in a daze. Many of the mothers who have lost their children are in a state of severe emotional trauma, says the IRC's Laila Khan, who leads the only team of psychosocial counselors in the region providing support to women and children traumatized by the quake. Women are sitting near the collapsed schools in hope that they may be able to hear the voices of their children trapped underneath the rubble.
Several of the IRC counselors, who are among the few female aid workers in this conservative Muslim region, are traveling with IRC mobile medical units to provide first aid and support to women and children who are uncomfortable interacting with male doctors and paramedics. They were joined today by four more doctors, including two female physicians. The roving clinics have proven to be an effective way to reach women and children in remote villages who may not be able to travel to the IRC's medical camps for treatment.
All of the IRC teams are continuing to assess the relief situation in their locations, coordinating with local officials to direct aid where it is most urgently needed. An official in Balakot, which has received quite a lot of relief goods, alerted us to a cluster of villages 40 kilometers away that has not received assistance because of its isolation, says Rehman Ullah, the IRC's team leader in Manshera. We are planning to assess the area and set up a camp to provide needed aid.
Today, the teams focused on the underserved areas of Pattankalan in Abbottabad and Oghi in Manshera, delivering food and other emergency supplies. An IRC convoy also reached Shangla today, where staff distributed supplies to survivors in the villages of Barkana, Khusarana, and Sharpur.
Team members report that stocks of tents and blankets are running low in some locations. Winter will soon come to this mountainous region, and they hope that, until more tents can arrive, sleeping bags will help homeless quake survivors keep out the cold.
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