Whenever a calamity happens, children are one of the most vulnerable, and their suffering is mostly underrated, just like how non-human beings are underrated.
Recent flood situation in the state of Tamil Nadu is no exemption. Cuddalore is one of the most affected district, alongside Chennai. While the State Capital Chennai has recovered, Cuddalore is still far from recovery.
Periyakattupalayam, a village in Cuddalore is one of the most affected during the devestating flood.
And closer by a wild stream, away from the main village lives the people who are considered as untouchables as they are from Scheduled caste.
While most of the villagers complain about crop damage, these people are the ones who lost their livlihood as a whole, some lives too. Living at the banks of the stream made them more vulnerable.
Lakshmi Veeramuthu is a school girl from that village. She has moved to Coimbatore now, and is continuing her studies.
Lakshmi’s family is from the (reserved) colony where these people live. Lakshmi is a school girl who studies 9th standard in Coimbatore staying at her aunt’s place, she works at a thread factory and she earns rs.6000 per month, and pays her own school feed, manages her expenses and also sends some money back home, to her parents.
Her parents, Veeramuthu and Ponnamma are daily wage labourers, and they have two sons and three daughters. Lakshmi’s siblings are studying the same village, unlike her.
When the flood happened, her family got to safety and was saved.
Until she got the news that they were safe, she neither could sleep nor eat well.
She says she was crying most of the time.
Only after a month’s time she could get back to her village to visit her parents.
She said she was relieved to know her family stayed safe.
But, their neighbours got washed away, including five children.
And their death has affected
While sharing about the flood experience, Lakshmi said, “I was shocked and still feel sad, they used to be my play mates. My siblings are more affected than me, they used to be playmates.”
And she is not the only traumatized kid in the village. There are many children in her village and also nearby villages, who are still traumatized from what they say during the flood, some of their conditions are rather worse that they are too afraid to even go near the stream anymore.
Sivagami Arumugam, from Visur, another village in Cuddalore district says, “My second son Mani is eight years old, and won’t go near the stream anymore. He is afraid of the flood coming once again. All of us (she and her family members) are afraid, but he hardly even sleeps in fear of flood.”
She is an agricultural labourer and has three sons. Her husband Arumugam is also an agricultural labourer.
She is very concerned about her son Mani. she’s puzzled why he is not being able to sleep well at night although the flood occurred only during the day.
Eventhough medical camps were organized by the State government and also the non-governmental organisations, the villagers feel that their emotional pain wasn’t taken care of.
“Adults can manage, but children need help for their emotional pain,” says Mrs.Arumugam.
Mental health needs immediate attention, yet its often considered a taboo.
As World Health Organisation (WHO) points out, Where there is neglect, there is little or no understanding. Where there is no understanding, there is neglect.