Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Better days are ahead for tornado-affected Communities

Joseph O. Prewitt Diaz[1] PhD

It was not until I saw, smelled and heard the stories of disaster-affected people in Sri Lanka, Banda Aceh and Chalang, after the 2004 South Asia Tsunami. It was through daily exposure that understood the meaning of the phrase “root shock”[2].

As we look at the future of Joplin, Missouri and Jarell, Tuscaloosa and Birmingham in Alabama clearly these towns and its people have experienced “root shock”. The loss of the home itself may not be the only indicator of negative psychological consequences. The roots that were left exposed will certainly influence their well-being: (1) loss of property, (2) loss of income, (3) loss of job, (4) loss of family, friends, and neighborhood, (5) loss of the way of life, and (6) limited access to essential services such as health care. If this were not enough, the disaster-affected people currently in shelters are at elevated risks for reduced hygiene, exposure to communicable diseases, insufficient water, rest and malnutrition.

I have had the opportunity to provide psychosocial support in different settings in the United States and many countries around the world. The lesson learned is that when the families resettle and caring networks are built around them, they whither for a while, but emerge stronger, more resilient, and appreciate of the newfound well-being.

Time is of the essence to put places together and get the disaster-affected people into some kind of normalcy. The community structures, and local networks will have to walk the proverbial extra mile to accept and care for the disaster-affected people. One thing is for sure:  “BETTER DAYS ARE AHEAD”. Disaster affected people will re-establish their place. The root shocked families with the right kind of nutrients and nurturance will succeed. I pray that day comes soon.

[1].  Dr. Prewitt Diaz is Visiting Professor and Director of the Disaster Law and Policy Study Center, School of Law of the University of Puerto Rico. He is the 2008 recipient of the APA International Humanitarian Award.
[2] The phrase “Root Shock” was formulated by Dr. Mindy T. Fullilove in her book “Root Shock” 2004 published by Random House. 

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