Myanmar, Republic of the Union of

Psycho-social support helps children deal with the ‘storm in their mind’ after Cyclone Nargis

UNICEF Image: Myanmar Cyclone, UNICEF
© UNICEF Myanmar/2008/ Naing
Khin San Win, 35, and her three-year-old son, Mg Myo Min Thant, back in their village and staying with friends after Cyclone Nargis destroyed their home.

By Win Naing

KAWHMU TOWNSHIP, Myanmar, 19 May 2008 – Cyclone Nargis may be over but the effects are not gone. Since the storm devastated the impoverished Irrawaddy Delta in southwestern Myanmar two weeks ago, the villagers have united to rebuild, one by one, their small, fragile homes, made of leaves and bamboo.

Although their home is gone, Khin San Win, 35, her husband and their three-year-old son, Mg Myo Min Thant, are back in their remote village in Kawhmu Township, staying with friends. The mother recalls her nightmare and its impact on her only son: 

“I held my son in my arms and ran to a nearby house. But the heavy wind flattened it.” she told a UNICEF worker who helped deliver water purifying supplies.  “We ran to another house with a metal roof. The wind was pulling off the metal sheets. We just ran in the dark in the heavy rain. My poor little boy was shaking with fear. Then he stopped speaking or making any sound. He was in shock.”

‘When the thunder comes, he cries’

Like Mg Myo Min Thant, there are countless more children in Myanmar who are in need of psychosocial support after witnessing these devastating events.

Khin San Win can see that the cyclone rages on in the mind of her son.

“My son is talking now but he hasn’t recovered. He used to play and bathe happily in the rain, like all children here. Now he refuses to go out when it rains. When the thunder comes, he cries,” she says.

Providing security

To help these children, UNICEF has begun setting up child-friendly spaces in the shelters and villages for displaced survivors.

Child-friendly spaces provide children with a secure place where they can play with other children, sing songs, participate in art activities and begin to understand their fears.

The spaces provide routine, supportive relationships and other crucial responses for restoring children’s well-being.

Child-friendly spaces also can become makeshift schools while damaged structures are restored.

“The emotional health of children after such an intensely stressful event is an urgent concern. It is important for their well-being that they are provided with a hand to help in returning to normal life," said UNICEF Representative in Myanmar Ramesh Shrestha.


 

 

Audio

UNICEF Myanmar Child Protection Specialist, Anne-Claire Dufay Demoulin, discusses helping children cope with life after the destruction caused by cyclone Nargis.
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