|A young tsunami survivor plays with a toy provided by UNICEF in a relief camp near Nagapattinam, India.|
NAGAPATTINAM, India, 24 February 2005 –Children in the Nagapattinam area of India who survived the tsunami are receiving support in coping with lingering trauma and stress, through play. As a part of the ongoing recovery process, the Indian government, supported by UNICEF, has equipped each of the 73 relief centres in this area with its own dedicated play area.
The centres house approximately 1,000 displaced residents each, which means that tens of thousands of children are being given an opportunity to play again. The Indian government is supplying the shelter, and UNICEF is supplying toys and educational materials.
UNICEF’s Piyali Mustaphi describes her recent visit to the play area at one of the relief centres: “The previous day when I had come, the shelter was totally empty and children didn't know what to do. But the moment the toys were handed out today, there was a lot of excitement and they started playing immediately.”
UNICEF is also training volunteers to handle the delicate task of staffing the shelters. Volunteers learn how to weigh children correctly, how to prepare nutritional supplements, and how to encourage children to play, and in doing so facilitate their return to normal life.
Sixteen-year-old Prema is one of the volunteers. She knows first hand about losing loved ones to the tsunami: “The tsunami killed my mother, my older brother, my aunt and my grandfather. I lost four family members on the same day.”
Prema and her surviving brother are living with an uncle. She is volunteering because she believes it is important to help all the children rebuild their lives.
Piyali shares her view: “The children are always the most affected ones – they are the vulnerable group. So they should be rehabilitated immediately”. And that precisely what UNICEF is seeking to do – support children’s recovery in a way that benefits the entire community, at a crucial moment in time.
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