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At a glance: United States of America

Children in need of security and help

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The Walker brothers from New Orleans lost their home to Hurricane Katrina. Now, with their parents, the family is planning a new life in Arkansas.

By J.B. Silvers

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas, 8 September 2005 – The mood at the Arkansas State Fairgrounds in Little Rock is anything but festive these days. The Fairgrounds has become a temporary shelter for over one hundred families from New Orleans – all displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

Many lost everything they owned in the storm and subsequent flood. Patrina Walker arrived in Little Rock with her husband and four sons three days ago, exhausted after a week spent in makeshift shelters and on buses.

“You feel kind of helpless because you have not only your own life at stake but also your children’s lives at stake,” said Patrina.

“I was afraid for their physical safety, because before they sent the National Guard in there were a lot of people running around with guns, particularly at night. We would have to stay up at night to watch the house where we were staying to make sure no one would come in.”

New roots

Little Rock welcomed the Walker family, as it did 50,000 others affected by the hurricane, with temporary shelter, food, and medical care.

Her family's immediate needs have been taken care of by the Red Cross. Now Patrina and her husband have begun the process of laying down new roots.

“We need to try to transition ourselves into this community and stay here and make our lives here,” Patrina said. “We’ve decided we don’t want to go back to New Orleans. Even after they build, I don’t want to go back.”

Patrina’s husband has already found a job in Little Rock and volunteers are helping the family find a house nearby.

Dislocation has been especially hard on Patrina's eldest son, David, 11. With no school at the Fairgrounds shelter, he has little to do.

“I miss school,” admits David. “I miss all my teachers and things. I want to learn science and technology. I'd like to be a technician.”

Emotional needs

Dr. Charity Smith of the Little Rock Department of Education is concerned about the emotional needs of children like David.

“I see too much alienation, too much fear, too much trauma in these youngsters,” she said. “We have to transition them back academically, but our first step is to administer to their emotional needs.”

UNICEF’s work in other disaster areas has shown that getting children back into school is a vital step in aiding their emotional recovery after trauma. A learning environment provides children with the security and safety necessary to begin their emotional healing.




8 September 2005:
UNICEF correspondent J.B. Silvers reports from Little Rock, Arkansas, on one family’s efforts to start a new life after the hurricane.

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Frontline diary

UNICEF's Allison Hickling is working as a volunteer in Texas. Read her account of the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

Wednesday 7 September – Searching for loved ones

Tuesday 6 September – Evacuees at the Reliant Center

Monday 5 September - Volunteering to help in Katrina’s aftermath

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