Helping Haitians to get over traumatising earthquake memories
09 July 2010
The shock of the earthquake is over but many people are constantly going through the events in their memory all over again. Precarious living conditions in overcrowded camps or makeshift homes out of rubble, violence and insecurity in the camps, the loss of family and friends, home or work, are putting enormous stress on people.
Libé Wakin in her makeshift house in Cité Soleil, one of the largest slum of Port-au-Prince where over 350 000 people are living. Since the earthquake, Libé lives there on her own with her three children.
A psychological test carried out recently by Cordaid (Caritas Netherland) on earthquake survivors, revealed very high stress levels among the population.
Caritas is stepping in through protection and counselling measures. Several thousand people, especially children, already benefitted directly from this aid.
Caritas child protection staff reach more than 2,000 children with counselling in five locations in Bureau des Mines, Solino and Pétionville Club camps. Counselling has been set up to help children and give them back some normality in their lives.
“After an incident as traumatising as this earthquake, it is essential to offer counselling to the children,” said Caritas counsellor Joseph Vilton. He worked as a psychologist in Port-au-Prince before the earthquake, and is now working in the children centres Caritas set up in different relief camps in Port-au-Prince.
The symptoms can be acute stress, nightmares, emotional distress, behavioural disorders or attention deficits. Specialists believe that it is urgent to reconstruct an environment allowing children to find a mental balance. Almost 1.5 million children have directly been affected by the earthquake.
Through activities that are playful and therapeutic at the same time, such as educational games, sports like yoga or karate, breathing exercises, songs, poetry, drawings or modelling clay, Caritas helps the children express what they would not be able to say otherwise.
For children, it is very important to return to a structured daily routine, which includes going to school. Caritas Austria and Caritas Switzerland are involved in the reconstruction of earthquake resistant schools and the establishment of temporary schools.
Thanks to a joint project with the Salesians, 6,500 pupils from the slum Cité Soleil will be able to go to school again. This also creates an income for teachers, support and security staff involved.
In addition to that, the partners provide a safe environment for street children from Cité Soleil in two centres. Caritas Germany is working on the reconstruction of a home for the elderly and disabled in Léogâne.
RESOURCESAnnual Report 2011Emergency GuidelinesEmergency Response Tool KitEmergency Appeals 2012Emergency Appeals 2011Emergency Appeals 2010Emergencies on Caritas BlogBridging the Gap between Policy and Practice