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2006.11.15
Nine-year-old Nur Alia Ismail is still terrified of the sea. Only playing hopscotch with friends will she venture this close to the shore. Nur Alia was alone at her home on the island of Langkawi when the tsunami struck. She survived by clinging to a pole. After months of counselling and medication, she seemed to have returned to normal. But she says her nightmares have recently returned. Q: What are you dreaming about? Nur Alia: The waves are coming Q: The waves are coming? Nur Alia: nods Q: Did you dream about it last night? Nur Alia: nod Q: Do you feel frightened when you think of it again? Nur Alia: nod Nur Alia is not a rare case. An assessment by UNICEF and Malaysia’s HELP University College in early 2005 found that the tsunami left deep emotional scars on many children. While some children show signs of post-traumatic stress early on, others may not display symptoms for months or even years. The assessment also discovered that many communities were unprepared to deal with the psychological effects of the tsunami. “We saw that the physical infrastructure could be repaired fairly quickly, but the tsunami revealed a real deficit, a lack in the capacity of the community to really sustain the protective environment for children.” UNICEF and HELP University College are trying to boost the power of communities in Malaysia to respond to the emotional impact of the tsunami, particularly on children. They are training dozens of communities leaders including teachers, religious officials and parents, in how to manage crises and provide a basic mental health support network. It’s a community-based approach that experts hope will not only help heal the scars of the tsunami, but prepare locals for possible future disasters. “Even though a lot of issues might be related to the tsunami and the recent disasters, we are hoping that the intervention will help the community far beyond just the effects of the tsunami, and will bring about a real change in terms of psycho-social wellbeing and health.” For Nur Alia, the hope is to bring back a sense of comfort and normalcy, and banish frightening waves from her dreams. In Langkawi, Malaysia, this is Steve Nettleton reporting for UNICEF. For every child, advance humanity *** Asset Name : UNICEF: Psycho social support for Malaysia’s tsunami affected children Shoot City: Langkawi Shoot Country: Malaysia Shoot Date: Sep 11 2005
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