Derna, Libya: In the wake of the catastrophic floods triggered by Storm Daniel in Libya three months ago, the city of Derna remains haunted by the psychological aftermath.
Thousands lost their lives as two dams burst, unleashing a deadly wave of water that engulfed the city.
While official figures put the death toll at 4,500, more than 8,000 people are still missing, leaving survivors grappling with shock and grief.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been on the frontlines, providing medical care and crucial mental health support to the residents of Derna.
The city, once a vibrant community, now echoes with grief and silence as people continue to mourn the loss of loved ones and the devastation of their homes.
MSF psychologist Asma Amaraa, on the ground in Derna, described the current state of the city, stating, “Derna is currently in a terrible state of grief and silence. People are still in constant mourning.”
The situation’s urgency prompted MSF to deploy a team to assess the immediate medical and humanitarian needs, offering support to those grappling with the traumatic aftermath.
The psychological toll on survivors is immense, with many struggling to cope with the magnitude of the disaster.
Displaced individuals who have lost family members, homes, and belongings sought refuge in makeshift shelters set up in converted classrooms.
Another vulnerable group identified by MSF consisted of medical staff and volunteers, some of whom had themselves experienced bereavement and were now facing the emotional distress of survivors.
Ten days after the disaster struck, MSF initiated general medical consultations at two health centres on either side of the destroyed city centre.
Additionally, they began providing psychological support through both individual and group sessions, recognizing the critical need for mental health care in the aftermath of such a traumatic event.
Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim Algablawi, working with MSF, observed a significant link between psychological distress and physical symptoms among the survivors.
Many presented with headaches, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and various pains, highlighting the interconnectedness of mental and physical well-being.
To date, MSF has provided medical consultations to over 4,480 patients, addressing a range of physical and psychological ailments.
Despite the stigma surrounding mental health in the community, MSF’s efforts have led to the referral of more than 230 patients for mental health support during primary health consultations.
The community’s close-knit nature poses challenges, as seeking psychological help is often stigmatized.
MSF psychologists, however, remain committed to breaking down these barriers and providing much-needed support.
The psychological impact is far-reaching, with over 1,000 patients receiving mental health support from MSF psychologists.
Signs of anxiety, violent tendencies, constant tears, and descriptions of distress, sadness, and fear are prevalent among survivors.
The trauma lingers, manifesting in nightmares, a constant fear of a recurrence, and anxiety triggered by rain, clouds, and climate change.
Despite the deep wounds and visible scars left by the floods, Derna is slowly rebuilding. Temporary shelters are closing, and reconstruction efforts are underway.
As schools reopen, MSF psychologists are extending their support to help teachers navigate the emotional challenges of starting a new school year in the aftermath of a disaster.
The road to recovery is long, but amidst the ruins, there is a glimmer of hope. Derna is demonstrating resilience and strength as the community begins to heal.
The journey ahead may be arduous, but with continued support from organizations like MSF, the people of Derna are determined to rebuild their lives and restore their city to its former vibrancy.
This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members