India: Giving psychosocial care to earthquake survivors

Now that the period of acute assistance has ended, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is broadening its existing project which provides psychosocial help to civilians to include those living in areas severely affected by the earthquake and its aftermath.

MSF is also monitoring the local population's medical situation in order to be able to react quickly to any possible epidemic outbreaks.

Immediately after the earthquake, MSF's team from the existing project began providing emergency assistance to people living in the most heavily hit areas. The team focused on distributing needed materials and providing psychosocial help. Other types of medical assistance were found to be less necessary. Most of the area's clinics continued to function and the Indian army had quickly evacuated the wounded to the regional capital, Srinagar.

In the first two weeks after the disaster, our teams distributed some 1,500 tents, 18,000 blankets, plastic sheeting and warm clothing. In a later phase, the assistance included corrugated metal roofing and insulation material, 396 heaters and 3,300 mattresses. This assistance was divided among more than 20,000 households.

In Srinagar, MSF's psychosocial counselors provided support to about 400 wounded children and others who had been evacuated alone to one of the city's hospitals. Many of them had to undergo limb amputations. In addition, they often had to absorb the news that relatives had been killed in the disaster.

MSF counselors continue to provide support to wounded survivors who must undergo amputations. They are also helping them prepare for the harsh winter that awaits them in their remote mountain villages. MSF is training counselors who come from these very communities. In that way, the counselors can provide psychological support to members of their own community during the winter period when their villages are shut off from the rest of the world.