HAMBANTOTA: Apart from dealing with physical injuries, relief workers helping tsunami victims here have had to address the mental state of those hit by the disaster.
“Almost every tsunami survivor is having psychological problems, as they have lost family members, friends and properties.
“We are getting more psychologists to come in when the next team takes over,” said Dr Wee Tuan Hong, a volunteer with the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu-Chi Foundation (Malaysia).
According to him, there had not been any outbreak of diseases although the number of people seeking treatment was high because the local medical facilities have been damaged.
In fact, tsunami victims make up only some 30% of those needing medical attention.
The rest are residents suffering from common and chronic illnesses.
“If we NGOs (non-governmental organisations) don’t help, the health system will collapse here,” he said, adding that 10% of Hambantota town had been wiped out in the tsunami disaster.
The Malaysian leader of the Tzu-Chi team, Joseph Lee Yun Ming, said a total of 46 volunteers, comprising 38 Malaysians and eight Singaporeans, had been serving at the medical camp since Dec 29.
“We have 11 medical staff and the rest are involved in other social services like ferrying patients to their homes or relief centres and visiting affected areas to distribute food.
“After visiting homes and assessing the situation, we buy whatever foodstuff is lacking,” he said.
Counselling, he added, was another area of work that team members were involved in.
“We were at a school where 200 children had not turned up for classes. The school did not know if the 200 students were still alive or dead.
“People here are ready to smile but many also need counselling as they are highly traumatised,” explained Lee.