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Special Report on UNFPA Assistance Six Months After the Tsunami

Story and photos by William A. Ryan


Wardani and Maina talk about their trauma counselling sessions.

Survivors and counsellors hold a group discussion.

Banda Aceh mental hospital patients.


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Psychosocial Counselling

In the Seulimum Psychosocial Centre in Aceh Besar, four counsellors from the NGO Fatayat Nahdlatul Ulama help about 40 traumatized survivors.

The centre is one of eight newly opened with UNFPA support to provide individual counselling and support groups, especially for women and youth. They are run by Islamic NGOs that work on women's rights issues. Counsellors are trained by he Indonesian Psychologists Association. (see press release)

Maina, a counsellor, says some women get solace from the centre's library of religious books or from having someone listen to their stories of loss. She helped Wardani, 27, to talk about how she feels after losing her husband and not being able to save two of her three children. ‘We were at home. When I heard the water, I ran to get the children but the wave hit me. I could not find the baby,' she laments. She and 3-year-old Azis escaped to the hills, where they lived for three days without food or drink except for a few coconuts.

Today Wardani lives in the Sineubuk camp, wears donated clothes and says there is barely enough to eat. Care provided a box of necessities but she sold it. She suffers from nightmares and doesn't want to think about returning to her village, or about remarrying. ‘I enjoy the activities at the centre. It calms me to share my story,' she says.

Maina says Wardani has opened up more than most of the survivors. Another breaks into tears when Maina asks if she will talk with visitors about what happened to her.

The women are eager for promised training activities to start. Now an unskilled head of household, Wardani wants to learn to make and sell snacks and cakes so she can save for her son's future.

As part of its psychosocial support, UNFPA is assisting the Banda Aceh mental hospital , the province's only referral facility for the severely traumatized. More staff are needed to provide vocational therapy to the increased number of patients (20% more than before the tsunami).

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