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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

PAKISTAN: Bomb-blast victims lack trauma care, counselling

PESHAWAR, 9 November 2009 (IRIN) - The huge bomb blast in the western Pakistani city of Peshawar on 29 October which left 117 people dead, many more injured and an unknown number of trauma victims was the most deadly this year.

According to the New Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management, the blast was the latest in violence that claimed 6,715 lives in Pakistan in 2008 (2,155 civilians, 3,906 “terrorists” and 654 security forces personnel) and at least 650 so far in 2009.

“I fell to the ground with the impact, and could not see anything for some minutes. All I heard were screams and cries for help,” said Muhammad Idrees, 40, who sells bracelets at the market. Many of those who died were women and children out shopping.

Most of the dead and injured were taken to the government-run Lady Reading Hospital, the largest public-sector medical facility in Peshawar. Doctors at the hospital said they struggled to cope.

“The thing is no hospital in the world is equipped to deal with the kind of situation you see when over 300 seriously injured people are suddenly brought to a hospital. Naturally problems occur,” Hamid Afridi, head of Lady Reading Hospital, told IRIN.

With 86 consultants and over 800 other doctors available, Afridi said they were not lacking staff and that support from nurses and medical students living on the premises was at hand, but there was a need for “more formalized trauma care”.

While the hospital has a large accident and emergency care department, staffed by 62 doctors and headed by a trauma care specialist, “we need even more expertise given the situation we now face”, Afridi said.

Panic attacks

Hundreds of people who were not injured are psychologically affected. “I suffered panic attacks for days, even though I was not injured in the blast but just heard the enormous boom some distance away,” said Azhar Khan, 30.

Adnan Hussain, 14, lost all his immediate family members in the blast - including his parents, four sisters and a three-year-old brother. He suffers a far deeper sense of loss. “He weeps when he is alone, so we try to keep him busy,” Adnan’s paternal uncle, Ayaz Khan, said. The family - from the town of Rawalpindi in Punjab Province - were shopping in Peshawar when the bomb struck.

Others suffer in different ways: “My son was a shopkeeper at a stall selling clothes in this market. I know he is dead, but it would give me some sense of mental peace if I could see his body,” Ameera Bibi, 60, told IRIN. Accompanied by her daughters, Bibi still regularly visits the site of her only son’s death.

“The survivors of such incidents need counselling, but there is not much awareness of the need. More and more victims of terrorism are, however, now seeking help and that is a good sign,” said psychologist Asif Khan.


Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition


Copyright © IRIN 2009
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

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