What about our children?

Published: September 12, 2010

Flood victims, especially children who need help in recovering emotionally and psychological recovery

I have witnessed many traumatic images in my few years as a media professional. However, the image of children watching their parents run after helicopters as they drop sacks of food, fighting and injuring each other in the process, is disturbing to say the least.

Even writing about it pains me deeply. Penning my thoughts brings back images of some of the most inhumane images I have seen; especially, during the recent coverage of the devastating floods.

I wonder what children go through when they witness their parents scuffling for food. Even as an adult I have trouble coming to terms with what I see, that too only on television. Bad things happen, but when they happen to children or in front of them, it can take them years to get over the pain. Emotional and psychological trauma can be caused by a one time blow, such as a horrible accident or a natural disaster like the floods in Pakistan. Professional help won’t blur bad memories but it might speed up recovery from psychological trauma.

Recovery

We talk about rescue, relief and rehabilitation. How about emotional and psychological recovery? The distressing experience that children affected by floods are going through will have a severe effect on them that could last a lifetime. Will these children always see the world as a frightening and dangerous place? Will they grow up with a sense of fear and helplessness? If so, who will aid them in recovering from it? Is this also the government’s job? A government that has already declared dealing with the catastrophe is out of its control. If we don’t deal with these children now, will we be witnessing an estranged generation a decade later? Will we blame ourselves then, the government or destiny?

These children may always see the world as a terrifying place, struggling with upsetting emotions. Having lost their homes and having to live on the roads is enough to shatter their sense of security forever. They will be flooded their entire lives, with despair and hopelessness.

Impact

Unfortunately, the emotional impact of trauma on children is often untreated as it is often unacknowledged. This should not be the case as exposure to disaster such as this one can be profound and long-lasting. It could adversely affect children’s ability to identify with or express emotions. It could negatively impact their basic identity. It could destroy their ability to relate to others. We talk about rehabilitation and rebuilding broken homes. What about broken hopes? Shattered egos? Emotionally distraught eight year old minds? Why not counsel these children and give them some hope. Not right away, but perhaps in the near future.

I realize that right now we are at a stage where we should be grateful if people even have tents for shelter, however, where the army and government have set up relief and medical camps, I wish at a later stage they or someone would set up camps meant for the benefit of children only. Camps where they could be taught games, educated, hear a few words of comfort, be given some degree of hope and perhaps be counseled to help recover from the tremendous devastation they have already suffered.

I wish schools and colleges would send students who would set up these camps for little children so that these children could spend some time away from the misery they suffer and engage in pleasant recreational or educational activities. This is a child’s basic right. Not a privilege.

Maybe I am too idealistic. However, what I am proposing is definitely worth a try.

Mina Sohail

Mina Sohail

A former news anchor and associate producer on Express 24/7. She writes on politics, social issues and culture.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • UZMA

    very well saidstrong textI wish schools and colleges would send students who would set up these camps for little children so that these children could spend some time away from the misery they suffer and engage in pleasant recreational or educational activities. This is a child’s basic right. Not a privilege…….bz these children r our country,s future.ALLAH GIVES US RIGHT PATH TO FOLLOW SOME STRONG STEPS 4 BETTERMENT OF OUR NEW GENRATIONRecommend

  • I. Afzal

    Very well written. I guess very few think about issues which are much deeper n darker and of course need to be given importance. Recommend

  • samaha

    it is an idealistic thought, but being a student of psychology i can say it is a great need of the hour because a disaster of this magnitude and then the problems they are facing right now will definitely have an impat not only on the kids but adults as well. but this is a secondary need and should be included in the rehabilitation process. but just like after the earthquake and in a country like ours it seems impossible that psychological health would be given to these children.Recommend

  • Mina

    Thanks Uzma for sharing your thoughts. Yes we all wish and hope the govt would focuses more on education. Recommend

  • Mina

    Samaha you’re right about pointing that out. Unfortunately in Pakistan it DOES seem impossible that children would be assisted this way. Very sad indeed.Recommend

  • Anoop

    Pakistan has to make sacrifices. Its armed forces use up most of the Pakistani resources. Now, that it has the Atom Bomb there is no justification for $5 Billion defence Budget.

    Another way for it to raise money is to democratize fast and increase efficiency of the economy. But, this is easier said than done.Recommend

  • murassa@hotmail.co.uk

    by snatching nd pushing the flood victims would not get any thing. for the last 10 yrs i hav seen people try to snatch nd push others nd try totake more than their share during charity distribution ,one such example is last years stampede in karachi during ramazan. i am not offending any poor person or flood victim but i hav witness during distribution of charity people try to snatch push to take more than their share ,their even tore the poor distributers clothes, this attotude is not due to povery but education. i have travelled thru whole of pakistan and think pakistans main problem is not poverty but lilletricy, the govt main priority has never been education but other things even our poor mans first priority is food than t,v than dvd and other luxuries but education is always the last ,these kids r only learning that to snatch from the oters is best thing . our govt. should first try tomake education their first priority . Recommend

  • Mina

    Murassa i couldn’t agree with you more on the education bit. That definitely has to be government’s top priority in order to breed a wise, civilized generation. As for the aid distribution and snatching….well i’m sure most of them do not wish to snatch food or money but miserable conditions have unfortunately compelled them to do so.Recommend

  • http://muhammadilyaskhan@blogspot.com Muhammad Ilyas Khan

    Thanks a lot Mina for this insightful write up. The reality is whatever problems, miseries and deprivations, the floods have exposed, are nothing new to millions of our children who have been living in utter poverty and misery since their birth,floods or no floods. You are right floods have aggravated the situation but believe me for these miserable souls life has never been a bed of roses. One hopes something good will come out of these floods for these underlings in this country. I hope the state and those with means and resources will make a real and sincere effort to bring life and hope back to these people. Thank you for feeling for them and making an effort to bring attention to this human tragedy.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Very touching article.
    But don’t underestimate our children of today, the one thing is that they are tough and resilient. Recommend

  • http://theburningissue.wordpress.com Mehroz Siraj

    My take on the floods can be seen at: http://theburningissue.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/pakistan-needs-us/

    Any feedback on the blog would be appreciated….

    Regards
    MehrozRecommend

  • Sakina

    I totally agree…. glad someone brought up this issue.. Recommend

  • Mina

    Great article Mehroz. Especially the point about how water borne diseases will affect children in the future. The government needs to really focus on this so proper care can be given to the children on time. The flood was just the just the first phase, there’s a lot more at stake now.Recommend

  • Mina

    Thankyou Mohammad Ilyas, Pervez and Sakina for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts. Recommend

  • Saad

    I’m really glad you brought this up. It is very important to understand and discuss the emotional effect of a natural disaster on children.Recommend

  • http://theburningissue.wordpress.com Mehroz Siraj

    @Mina:
    Thanks Mina….. :)Recommend

  • Raza B

    Wow !!!! …. I am impressed. great article and a genuine and original idea and contrary to general perception its not impractical at all. Recommend

  • Khadija Masood

    Mina, lets hope there are more people in Pakistan who think like you. Wonderful article!Recommend

  • Mina

    Thanks Raza and Khadija :)Recommend

  • Captain Sohail Butt

    Im ur biggest fan Mina… Keep it upRecommend

  • munawwar