In Phuket, Thailand, what was once a tropical resort paradise is now a place of loss and misery for many. It was hit hard by Sunday’s tsunami. Dead bodies continue to be recovered, while humanitarian efforts are underway to try to keep the survivors healthy.
Andrew Morris is UNICEF’s humanitarian coordinator in Thailand. From Phuket, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the problems facing the government and relief agencies.
He says, “For the government, it’s the search and rescue operation which is the number one priority. And that’s going on and international teams are arriving to help with that. For us, for UNICEF, one of our concerns is actually the psychological impact that this really horrific tragedy has had on tens of thousands of children here. Children here have witness horrific sights. They’ve seen family members washed away into the tidal wave, the tsunami. They’ve clung to trees for days waiting for someone to find them. Some children are orphans; they’re in hospitals, wondering if they’re parents are going to arrive and in many cases they won’t.”
UNICEF is working with the Thai government to address this psychological trauma. Mr. Morris says, “This is one of our main concerns. We know from experience in working in emergencies all over the world, children are especially affected by such horrific events. We’re supporting local authorities, government, the Ministry of Health, the Ministries of Social Health and Education to do whatever is needed to reduce the psychological impact on these children. We’re helping to fly in teams of train psychologists and social workers, but interestingly, not flying them in from overseas, but bringing them in from other provinces in Thailand. There are a number of people trained to deal with trauma in children in Thailand. These are the people we need.”