The Army Public School Massacre in Peshawar, Pakistan
Pakistan has been in a continuous state of low- and sometimes medium-intensity war on terrorism for nearly two decades. During this time, school children have increasingly become the target of terrorist attacks. The 2012 assassination attempt on Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai, a young human rights activist, brought these activities into high relief, arousing national and international sympathies and outrage. The largest, most brutal attack occurred on Dec 16, 2014, in Peshawar, when 150 children were killed while in school. The Army Public School massacre was unique. The catastrophic devastation affected not only victims and their close relatives but the whole country. The immediate challenge was to address the mental health needs and psychosocial rehabilitation of those living in the affected community. Government social intervention efforts were necessarily complemented by community mobilization. Horizon, a local NGO with expertise in psychosocial rehabilitation following disasters, volunteered to perform a quantitative needs assessment and diagnostic evaluation study with 50 affected families in the nearby community. At the end of 6 months, more than 36% of children studied met the criteria for PTSD. Special training workshops for teachers, doctors, and media were arranged. These workshops prepared the affected families and community to increase their resilience. Given the limited capacity to respond to these crises, the concluding recommendation is that the government become more involved in helping make available an improved system of mental health care, both to prevent problems and respond to them.
KeywordsArmy Public School Children Terrorism Taliban Psychological warfare School massacre Pakistan Rehabilitation PTSD War-affected children Malala Yousafzai War on Terror Horizon NGO Classroom-Based Intervention (CBI) Hands-on counseling
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