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Desert angels
Dealing with the traumatic aftermath of the devastating quake

January 20, 2005

A letter sent to me from a volunteer doctor from Bam. It shows some other aspects of this disaster. -- Reza Saberi

My Dear Friends,

The disaster in Bam continues to claim victims.

A year after the eqrthquake, mental damage, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, anxieties and feelings of insecurity can be found everywhere.

Many children and orphans still show psychological problems. Many girls and boys are afflicted by dissociative disorder; they see no choice but distance themselves from the terrible and unbearable realities (much much heavier than the unbearable lightness of existence).

So they cut their connections to their past world. I saw many children who had closed their eyes, didn't eat, drink or speak. They deny what has happened; accepting the truth would tear their brain apart.

While children, fathers, mothers and elders have died, no happiness, protection, care and kindness and wisdom remain in the city. But you can find a lot of brutality and violence here specially when going deep into the society.

Child protection, family reunification and mental health and support are the new fields in disaster management in Iran. During vists to schools and meetings with parents and teachers, I realized how worried they are for the mental health of the children. They told a lot sad stories about what changes had taken place in the children after the great quake.

Horror and deprivation cannot be forgotten. On that terrible day loved ones perished under ruble, while the surviving few waited helpless until morning in the freezing temperature of the desert. Dealing with the aftermath of the disaster has also been traumatic.

Teachers, specially the women, are like angles in black veil, with sad eyes, kind hearts and bright minds, who themselves have lost children or husbands. They have brilliant ideas about how to treat the behavior problems of their students. Their ideas are much better than many psychiatrists who have been brought from abroad to Bam.

In the very far villages of the District of Bam we can still find health workers who are deeply and passionately committed to their job. They feel as if they are saving their own children. They understand what loss means as they have lost their beloved too.

At the farthest region of the District of Bam, about 90-150 km away from the city of Bam, there is a region called Rigan (plural of rig, which means dust).It is famous for its terrible sand storms. A population of about 65,000 live there without a hospital. There's only one health centre with a young doctor. The ambulance is out of order. In the village clinics the vaccination programme is working.

I saw a lady working in a clinic. She had carried out vaccinations in her own village as well as those near by. She kept the vaccines cold, registered the temperature of the refrigerator twice a day. She and her daughter have continued working to stop polio, measles, rubella, tetanus and diphtheria. Three of the 10 villages near Rigan are in excellent shape, with the efforts of Mrs. Moradi, Mrs. Fazlabadi and Mr. Razmjoo. They are motivated and happy despite the difficult conditions.

If we have much less disease even in the deprived and remote areas, it is because of them.

Yours Truly


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The Legend of Seyavash
Translated by Dick Davis

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