IFRC

On the spot and online: Belgian Red Cross support in the wake of Christmas market attack

Published: 15 December 2011 12:58 CET

By Joe Lowry, Communications Manager, Europe Zone

The quiet Belgian town of Liege is a town in mourning, two days after a lone attacker killed five people and wounded 120 before taking his own life. Christmas shoppers in the Place de St Lambert were stunned when shooting, interspersed with grenade blasts rocked the square, sending hundreds fleeing.

Belgian Red Cross was among the first to respond, sending seven teams, including paramedics and 15 ambulances to treat and evacuate the wounded. Five advanced medical posts were set up which tended to over 100 wounded after the attack.

The Red Cross also supplied blood products and appealed to donors to come forward. Meanwhile six psychosocial intervention workers went to the devastated area to comfort witnesses, the wounded, and family members.

Their reach was enhanced yesterday with the opening of a Red Cross blog and forum specifically designed to provide answers and support to those affected, as well as platform to air their concerns and feelings. A telephone hotline remains open and those affected can speak directly to psychosocial team members.

The blog is proving immensely helpful, with dozens of people already posting and receiving answers from trained personnel.

“Is it normal to feel shocked even though I wasn’t at the scene of the attacks?” asks one member of the public.

“Yes, of course!” is the reply. “You don’t have to have been wounded or a few metres from the attacker to have been affected. People can be overwhelmed because they were there minutes before or go there regularly.”

A parent writes: “My children were on the square and have come back but are very quiet. Should I do something to help? Must they suffer in silence?”

“Your respect for their situation is positive. If you respect their silence will they understand where you are coming from? You could say you know they have had a difficult time, that they are suffering and you are available to talk when they are ready.”

“I was scared for my life. I can never imagine walking around without a care. It’s over”

“Don’t force yourself. Go out with friends, where you feel safe, have a coffee…”

“When I see images in the press or on the internet I can feel physical sensations in my body. Can I stop it? Will it ever go away?”

“These sensations remind you of facts you’d rather forget. Your reaction is a show of respect and homage to what happened,  like when a tear comes to  our eye when we hear a piece of music or see a picture.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ Europe Zone director, Anitta Underlin, expressed her solidarity with the people of Liege and paid tribute to the ongoing response. “We are all appalled and shocked at this terrible tragedy,” she said. “We know that this holiday season will be difficult for the affected communities, but we know they can depend on the proximity of their Red Cross to help them through this saddest hour.”




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