October 22, 1995
Web posted at: 1 a.m. EDT (0550 GMT)
From Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (CNN) -- As Bosnia ambles toward peace, the mental trauma that the people have been holding back becomes more apparent.
Off columns of gloomy (33K JPG image) corridors live about 300 people, one family to a room, sharing one bathroom and basic toilet facilities. Only one space full of laughter, and light brightens the darkness.
In that one room, children are getting music therapy to help them through the mental trauma that they have sustained in three-and-a-half years of war.
While the piano plays, 9-year-old Azra can sing, but when it stops, the horrors of war keep flooding back. "I feel very bad. I was afraid of the shelling" she stuttered. "It gave me this problem." Azra's speech has been impaired since war tore through her home. Music therapy is helping her heal wounds deep from within. "This place means happiness to me," she said.
Children are among the most severely hit in this war that has targeted mostly civilians. They say the worst was the shelling; knowing that they could die at any moment.
Their memories are limited to the haunting presence of destruction and death. But one boy had at least one good moment to share. "My best day of the war was when my brother came back from the hospital last week," he said. His brother was wounded when a shell hit their home.
Professionals in many fields are learning how to provide a future for a generation that's been robbed of its childhood. But many psychiatrists fled during the war, so doctors are coming from abroad to train new specialists. Dr. John Wilson of the World Health Organization said it is not during war, when people use their survival instincts, but during its aftermath that people, especially children, need help. (148K AIFF sound or 148K WAV sound)
Much pain lies behind the smiles of a child who's survived shelling, ethnic cleansing and even a detention camp. Sead, his two brothers and their parents were released six months ago from a Serb camp in eastern Bosnia. "I know they were killing people in there," he said, "and cutting them with knives."
Sead's little brother just whispers, and won't talk about his experience.
But before the war, the child's behavior wasn't even considered a proper illness. "We always used to say they are just frustrated and sent them to the doctor," said Aziza Siljdedic of the International Rescue Committee. "Now, we see how useful just one open conversation can be in helping the trauma."
A million and a half people in Bosnia and Croatia need psychological help. And it seems that the road to healing is just as long, if not longer, as the road to peace.
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