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Haiti: A Nation in Mourning

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Four weeks after the catastrophic quake, Haiti's survivors face more than just staggering physical needs such as food and shelter, World Vision said today. More than nine out of 10 people the humanitarian agency spoke to had lost loved ones -- including friends, extended family or close family -- and need to make time for grieving and establish normal routines in order to recover, the Christian aid group said. Access to the basics of life and some sense of control are also an essential part of coping with loss, according to World Vision.

World Vision spoke to 150 people across three sites in Port-au-Prince, where the agency is providing emergency supplies and services to children and families. More than 40 percent of people asked had lost an immediate family member, while 14 percent said multiple members of their immediate family had been killed by the quake.

"Haiti is a nation in mourning," said World Vision's child protection specialist Sian Platt. "People have not just lost homes, jobs and everything they own, they are somehow trying to come to terms with the death of those who loved and supported them." She continued:

"Everyone mourns in different ways. But it cannot be underestimated how important the well-being of families is in the rebuilding of Haiti. Studies have found that children and adults heal faster if they are able to find routine and access the basics of life. A safe, dry home, regular meals, clean water, meaningful activity and work, are all needed in order to strengthen a resilient city now in mourning.

Ordinary people need to be included and consulted in decisions made about the relief response, the recovery phase and the rebuilding of this country," said Platt. "A voice and a sense of ownership is extremely important in the healing process, for people individually as well as the nation as a whole."

As part of its relief effort, World Vision has established safe places for children across Port-au-Prince in order to provide them with a sense of normalcy and routine in such a chaotic environment. According to Platt:

"Children without parents or their traditional caregivers are at particular risk. They need protection and also opportunities to grieve. Everyone processes grief differently and children are the same. Play and forming new friendships are a powerful method of stabilizing their lives and giving them time to process their emotions.

Tragically, some children do not yet know if their parents are alive or dead. In partnership with Unicef, World Vision will be working across large parts of the country to trace and reunify children with their families."

Syndia, 8, is now living with neighbors after her parents, as well as her foster parents, were killed on January 12. "When the earthquake hit, the house was broken and destroyed," she said. "Mum and Dad were inside and they died.

"I cry every day," she said. "I cannot sleep. I think of my Mum."

Other earthquake survivors interviewed reported high blood pressure and lack of sleep.

Elda Rosier, 45, said: "It has touched us very deep. We still dream about what happened. Very often my heart beats fast and I have a headache."

World Vision urges aid agencies and the international community to focus on social reconstruction to help the healing process, working with families to restore social structures and a sense of normality, reinstating community services and structures, as well as rebuilding family and community networks.

Donations to World Vision's Haiti Quake Response can be made at www.worldvision.org, by calling 888-56-CHILD or by texting the word "GIVE" to 20222.