News

Medical Workers in Indonesia Say Tsunami Victims Face Years of Psychological Trauma

Relief workers in Indonesia's Aceh province say food, clean water, and immediate medical care are beginning to reach almost all the victims of last month's earthquake and tsunami. But they say they are just beginning to assess the psychological trauma affecting the half million victims of the disaster.

It is late morning at Zaineol Abidin hospital, Banda Aceh's main medical facility. The collapsed wall at its entrance and the muddy courtyard inside are grim reminders of last month's deadly tsunami, which killed scores of patients and many doctors and nurses here.

On the veranda of the main entrance, a half-dozen doctors, volunteers from Indonesia and abroad, attend to the hundreds of patients who come in every day, referring the most severe cases to teams inside. One of them is psychiatrist Ira Savitri Tanjung from Jakarta, who sits at the far end of the veranda with a bag of medicine at her side.

Dr. Tanjung is trying to comfort a young mother who speaks slowly, staring deep into space.

Dr. Tanjung says the woman was already having family problems but after the tsunami took both her parents, she began to suffer from depression. The doctor says this is but one symptom of what is called post-traumatic stress disorder, which afflicts many people in Aceh now.

"The problem's symptoms are anxiety, jitters and depression because they lost everything. And sometimes they worry, [they] hear water," she said.

The doctor says she talks to the patients and tries to help them cope with their shock. Some cases require medication. She says she sees about 100 people a day and one by one tries to help them regain their spirit.

In the camps of survivors who lost their homes as well as family members, the feelings of shock are even more intense. An American doctor working in a tent community on the hard-hit western coast, Sanjay Thomas, says most of its residents are suffering from post-traumatic stress.

"I think about three-quarters of the camp here are suffering from that kind of disorder," he said. "We have a social worker here to try and develop a plan for the next three to six months so that they can have a counseling program and people can just vent about their experiences."

A delegate from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Langdon Grenhelgh, says the best way to deal with trauma of this nature is to use local therapists.

"You deal with local representatives from these communities who can understand what these folks have gone through, understand what the coping mechanisms are within these communities and how best to strengthen these coping mechanisms," he said.

A health officer with the Red Cross, Caroline Dunn, has just completed a medical assessment in the region. She says the symptoms her volunteers are seeing include sleeplessness, crying and an inability to talk about the events.

Her group is helping the Indonesian Red Cross set up clinics to train medical workers on how to spot and treat people with problems.

"All the people accessing this clinic are given information on how to recognize certain symptoms that people might be acutely stressed or traumatized and what they can do to help them," she said. "This will be followed up by a longer-term program in the next few months to make sure that people get some support where possible."

She says the clinics will be community based, and will be run by volunteers with the Indonesian Red Cross. Nevertheless, she says her group plans to be in Aceh for the long term, until the communities regain some sense of normality.

 

 

 

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs