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Post-tsunami trauma still haunts children

Children in India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands who lost their parents and dear ones in the December 2004 tsunami are yet to get over their trauma, says a new report.//

"Battered Islands" - the report of a fact-finding committee comprising researchers Shivani Chaudhary and Enakshi Ganguly Thukral - says a large number of children continue to suffer because of poor rehabilitation efforts.

Bhushan, now a healthy boy, was barely a few days old when the devastating tsunami hit the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. He was found floating on a piece of thermocol and was adopted by a family in Nicobar.

But not many children were as lucky. Bhushan now lives in Campbell bay.

Selvi, another resident of the islands, lost both her parents in the disaster and now lives in South Andaman with her uncle and aunt, who allegedly ill-treat her. Selvi broke down one day in the church and said she did not want to live with her uncle and aunt.

Thukral told IANS: "The sufferings of the tsunami-affected children in these islands are not yet over. There is an urgent need to take care of their rehabilitation."

"Selvi and many children who lost their parents started behaving abnormally after the tragedy," the study says.

The government and to some extent even NGOs have been insensitive to the requirements of children while carrying out rehabilitation work, the authors of the report say.

For example, in a large number of cases, toilets have been constructed far from the shelters where children stay. In some cases it is a five minute to eight minute walk from their shelters.

The children find it difficult to use the toilets at night because they are scared to walk in the dark.

The report also points out that the education of these children has been disrupted. "There are complaints that teachers do not take regular classes and the quality of teaching is also poor," the report says.

Cheating in examinations has become an accepted norm for most students.

The study, conducted on behalf of the Housing and Land Rights Network, an NGO, has recommended: "Special measures to address children's needs, especially of those who have lost one or both parents in the tsunami, should be incorporated in all relief and rehabilitation plans.

"Adequate psycho-social support services and long-term counselling programmes for children should be integrated into school and play activities."

The study indicates that the large number of NGOs working for rehabilitation of tsunami-affected children in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands often compete with one another.

"All agencies working on children's issues in a particular shelter should coordinate their activities and work closely together to prevent competition and duplication of efforts," it has suggested.

(Source - IANS)
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