Doctors at a field hospital in the southern Turkish city of Iskenderun say they are treating a growing number of patients with stress disorder post-traumatic and panic attacks after last week’s earthquake.
“Initially, it was the patients who were injured under the rubble,” said Beena Tiwari, an Indian Army officer, “Now more PTSD patients are coming, after all the trauma they suffered in the earthquake and what they saw “. He added that many people have had panic attacks.
The total death toll in Turkey and Syria passed 37,000 people, and earthquake and its aftershocks destroyed entire cities in both countries, leaving survivors homeless in the freezing cold, many struggling to find somewhere to sleep and toilet facilities.
The trauma experienced by survivors is immense. Some were pulled from the wreckage after hours in the cold and dark, only to discover family members dead or missing, and see crowded neighborhoods in which they lived reduced to concrete.
Major Tiwari is part of a team about 100 experts from India setting up a field hospital, following the destruction of a local hospital, to treat survivors of the earthquake, one of the worst in Turkey’s modern history.
In the same context, a Turkish medical official said: “People are only now starting to realize what happened to them after this traumatic time.”
Across the border, in Syria, a temporary center run by Unicef has provided children with “psychological first aid”, encouraging them to play and feel safe.
They also receive other patients with infectious diseases and upper respiratory tract infections, said Yaduvir Singh, the head of Iskenderun hospital, and thousands of people living in outdoor tents in freezing temperatures will suffer greatly.
“In the beginning, we had many cases of trauma of people buried under rubble for a long time, for 72 hours and 90 hours,” he added.
He continued, “We had to amputate a person to save his life. There were surgeries to save lives and limbs. Now the shape of the cases is changing.”
The World Health Organization has appealed for US$43 million to provide trauma and rehabilitation care, essential medicines, psychosocial support and the continuation of normal health services in Turkey.
“The needs are enormous and growing every hour. About 26 million people in both countries need humanitarian assistance,” he said in a note Hans Kluge, director of the WHO European office.
“Just over a week ago, since this terrible tragedy, concerns are growing about health problems resulting from the cold, personal hygiene, sanitation and the spread of communicable diseases,” he added.