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Those who preach charity, should help the IDPs – Ferial

Its time Sri Lankans proved that they can be compassionate towards the Internally Displaced. Those who practice the main religions, who build temples, kovils, mosques and churches, should now practice what they preach towards the 300,000 internally displaced Sri Lankans (IDSLs) in the island, Housing and Common Amenities Minister Ferial Ashraff said.

Addressing the workshop on "Improving mental health status of communities affected by war," she said a 20-million population should not put the whole burden of the welfare of IDSLs on 225 parliamentarians. "Instead, they should assess how they could contribute towards the wellbeing of the displaced."

Consultant Psychiatrist Dr. Mahesan Ganesan of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)speaking on "Why mental health was important in development activities for Internally Displaced People (IDP) and communities," said the development process would take time when having to work with people who have been constantly displaced under the war situation. "We have not only to consider the mental health status of IDPs but also have to consider their state of mind prior to becoming IDPs," he said. They would have had issues even then stemming from the violence, the loss of possessions, and death which they had witnessed around them under conflict conditions.

Being IDPs reduced people’s self esteem as they were not able to function as independent human beings. They cannot support their families and they live under greatly deprived conditions. Their lack of information as to when they would be resettled, the uncertainty they have to live with based on rumours like what happened during the 2004 tsunami also contribute towards their mental status. People were in constant fear owing to false alarms being circulated following the initial upheaval, Ganesan said.

To start a development process, IDPs should be able to come out of their initial state of mental trauma. They have to be able to deal with their grief, come to terms with the present situation and be empowered towards developing themselves in the near future, he added.

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