The recent floods in various regions of Pakistan have had a significant impact on the peoples’ livelihoods. While houses have been razed to the ground and people have lost their lives, some 19,000 schools have also been damaged. Sindh alone is expected to see 2 million school dropouts. The province already has 6.5 million children out-of-school.
When the floods hit the country in 2010, around 10,000 schools were reportedlyly either partially or completely damaged.
These stats are enough to call for an education emergency because research shows that the process of repairs and building the infrastructure of schools tends to be time-consuming and expensive. While the numerous donation drives by NGOs and international aid will eventually take care of the necessities like food, sanitation, water and residence, the disrupted education system will give birth to variables like destabilised homes, child labour, grief and trauma.
The integration of flood-affected children into community-based structures, such as schools, will have numerous benefits. This will allow them to open up, mingle, and not resort to informal jobs to support their families at tender ages
A study conducted by Save the Children after the flash flooding within the country in 2011 showed that 70 percent of the children faced the fear of water, open places and darkness. Moreover, many had developed phobias while they steered through their anxieties.
It would indeed be insensitive to expect the overwhelmed parents who have suffered unprecedented damages caused by the rains to console the children as well. But, by using the funds or partnering with private organizations and not-for-profits, it is possible to address the situation at hand.
The integration of flood-affected children into community-based structures, such as schools, will have numerous benefits. This will allow them to open up, mingle, and not resort to informal jobs to support their families at tender ages.
A 20-year-long longitudinal study to examine the prevalence of PTSD and DSM-1V disorders in Australian bushfire survivors showed that a huge number of survivors had different types of anxiety. Likewise, having lost their homes, friends and in many cases, their guardians, there must be a lot of unprocessed trauma among the flood-affected children in Pakistan that may surface years later in different forms if unaddressed.
According to estimates, among the population of over 220 million, about 33 million and counting are affected by the country-wide floods. Among them are 3.4 million children. Protecting and rehabilating all of them might be a long shot but definitely worth trying. Even if one-fourth of the children are screened and subsequently treated for trauma-related symptoms, it will end up making a huge difference.
In a controlled community field study on the Island of Kauai, schoolchildren went through a community-wide school-based screening two years after Hurricane Iniki. The results showed significant reductions in self-reported trauma-related symptoms.
Clinicians, teachers or trained volunteers can work as an important first-line resource to assess the psychological state of children in the face of disasters and subsequently attempt to help them out
It is not like psychosocial support programmes are not operational in different parts of the country. The problem is that they are not specifically targeting the children. For example, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies under their Psychosocial Centre has come up with a psychoeducational support package for the flood victims. The package includes a booklet, available in different regional languages, which includes dealing with children in the face of a calamity.
However, many of the flood victims might not be able to read, let alone put the reading material into action. Therefore, a practical and hands-on approach is a need of the time.
Data collected in different disaster areas, affecting large communities, show that early intervention is associated with improved functioning and well-being in children. Clinicians, teachers or trained volunteers can work as an important first-line resource to assess the psychological state of children in the face of disasters and subsequently attempt to help them out.
The onus, therefore, is on the government to initiate something along these lines.