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Coping with Crisis - Newsletter No. 3, 2004

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“Bam is still alive”

By Margriet Blaauw, Psychosocial Officer

When arriving in Bam ten months after an earthquake destroyed almost the entire city, the first images are of total devastation: piles of stones and rubble, as far as the eye can see. An IFRC poster of a little girl playing hopscotch in front of a tent, between the ruins of what once used to be her home greets visitors with the message “Bam is still alive”.

Approximately 31.000 people were killed, 17.000 injured, 1522 women were widowed, and 2732 children became orphans*. More than 85 % of the buildings, including houses, schools, and health care centres were destroyed. Behind the statistics approximately 75,000 survivors are trying to find ways to carry on, to get some normality back in their lives.

The consequences of the earthquake left the entire population of Bam severely affected. According to a needs assessment survey, conducted by the IRCS many people suffer from insomnia, nightmares, disturbing thoughts and anxiety. A large part of the population lives in container camps in the surroundings of the city. There is very little to do in the camps.
The Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) has ample expertise in the provision of psychosocial support to survivors of disasters. With support from the Danish Red Cross (DRC), the Icelandic Red Cross (ICRC) and ECHO they developed a psycho-social programme to reduce the suffering of the survivors of the Bam earthquake. From October 30-November 9 a mission was conducted to evaluate the programme. This article is based on the findings of this mission.