Overcoming trauma after an earthquake

By Abdulfattoh Shafiev in Tajikistan

Five-year-old Mohira is still afraid to go outside in the mornings and is even too frightened to open the front door. The memory of a terrifying experience has stayed with her until today.

On 13 May 2012, a powerful 5.7 earthquake hit eastern Tajikistan; Mohira’s village was near the epicenter and the most affected. More than 200 homes were destroyed or damaged in the earthquake, leaving more than 2,000 people in need of shelter and immediate support.

Mohira’s mother, who woke up just before the earthquake, felt the first tremors of the quake. She immediately shook her children to wake them up, and quickly opened the door for them to run outside. She managed to get them out—all but one. She didn’t realize her little girl was left behind. She didn’t know Mohira was stuck under fallen parget and was unable to free herself and get out of the house alone.

With worry reflected in her eyes, Mohira’s mother said, “How do I make the bad memories fade away from my little girl’s mind? How do I forgive myself? The fear persists in little Mohira’s heart.”

Many of the children who survived the devastating quake are still living with the shock and fear of the experience. To help people overcome the trauma often encountered after a major earthquake, the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan implemented its largest-ever psychosocial support project with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO).

The Red Crescent’s trained psychologists visited villages and schools, and talked to both adults and children helping them return to routine and normality.

Sharifa, a 22 year old student who was at home with her parents and three sisters, said she remembers the terrible sound of the earth shaking, and the fear that no one knew what was happening or what to do. For many families, everything they owned was crushed beneath their shattered homes.

The first people who came to help were residents of neighbouring villages that was much less damaged than Gharibon. They brought food and took families into their homes. Over the following days, tents and emergency supplies including food, blankets and kitchen sets arrived from both the authorities and the Red Crescent Society of Tajikistan. The families whose homes were damaged or destroyed, received building materials from the authorities and construction tools from the Red Crescent. They also received training to build new, stronger houses able to withstand disasters.

Haqrizo, the father of 12 children, is a builder. He was not in the village that morning when the quake struck. He returned two days later to a collapsed home. He says he never thought that such a catastrophe could happen. He did not know that it was important to build a house according to certain specifications to protect his family from the devastating impact of an earthquake. Now that he has received the knowledge and skills through the Red Crescent, he plans to build a better home for his family and neighbours.

The Red Cross Red Crescent and ECHO provided critical emergency assistance to over 3,000 people affected by this devastating earthquake and helped families be better prepared in case of another disaster. - See more at: http://www.ifrc.org/en/news-and-media/news-stories/europe-central-asia/t...