Derna children traumatized in aftermath of Libyan floods triggered by Storm Daniel

Children suffering from depression, loss of speech, and suicidal tendencies, Libyan psychiatrist Shaheen Al-Zayani tells Anadolu

Moataz Wanis and Walid Abdullah  | 28.09.2023 - Update : 29.09.2023
Derna children traumatized in aftermath of Libyan floods triggered by Storm Daniel


Children in Libya’s Derna city have been suffering from depression, and loss of speech, while some even attempted suicide after the Mediterranean Storm Daniel wreaked havoc on their hometown.

Derna was the hardest hit by the floods, causing the city’s dams to burst, washing away homes and people.

“Nearly 300,000 children are estimated to have been exposed to the powerful Storm Daniel across eastern Libya,” the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) stated on Sept. 14.

“The numbers of affected children represent an entire generation,” Libyan psychiatrist Shaheen Al-Zayani said.

Al-Zayani explained that “children who have been exposed to the flood disaster have been severely affected psychologically.”

“This situation will unfortunately cast a shadow over the entire country in the future,” he added.

Storm Daniel struck eastern Libya on Sept. 10, leading to floods in several cities, including Benghazi, Bayda, Al Marj, Soussa, and Derna, resulting in massive destruction to infrastructure and a significant loss of life.

On Sept. 14, authorities in East Libya put the death toll at 3,845 people.

Terrifying scenes

“Many children have fallen into a state of depression, others have lost the ability to speak due to the horror of what they experienced during the floods that swept through Derna,” the Libyan doctor told Anadolu.

“Some children were trapped inside their homes with bodies in front of them until they were rescued,” Al-Zayani said.

The duration of the floods following the storm, according to Al-Zayani, “is estimated at more than 15 hours, during which these children were either under the rubble of their homes, or were swept away by water to several places, or next to the bodies of other people, and even the bodies of their family members, as happened in some cases in Derna.”

The Libyan psychiatrist explained that "a child's perception of such a disaster is completely different from that of an adult.”

“One of the most difficult psychological cases I encountered among these children was of a boy transferred alongside his sister from Derna to Benghazi,” Al-Zayani said.

“After losing both of his parents, this child attempted suicide by jumping off of a high place many times and he did so unconsciously,” the doctor added.


“Many children had to be transferred to Benghazi,” Al-Zayani stated, noting that “this sort of displacement will hinder these children’s psychic growth.”

According to UN figures, more than 40,000 people have been displaced due to the devastating flooding.

“For a child to leave his school, his home, and his neighbors and suddenly find himself in another environment that is less safe and reassuring, is a very negative experience,” Al-Zayani explained.

“This new environment only confirms to the child that he is truly experiencing a crisis,” Al-Zayani said, stressing: “Children are supposed to be kept away from any exceptional situation in order to prepare them for post-traumatic psychological treatment.”

Psychological assistance to survivors

“All residents of the city of Derna are in a state of real shock due to the scale of the disaster, which is considered unprecedented in Libyan history,” Saad El-Din Abdel-Wakil, the undersecretary of the country’s Ministry of Health in the Government of National Unity, told Anadolu.

Abdel-Wakil stated that authorities are “working on an inclusive support program to provide psychological assistance to flood survivors.”

Abdel-Wakil explained that "the institutions affiliated with the Ministry of Health, including psychiatric hospitals, the Health Care Foundation, the Red Crescent, and some other social affairs institutions, have begun their tasks since last week, focusing, in the short term, on providing psychological support."

The official pointed out that "several agencies, institutions, research centers and teams affiliated with the Ministry of Health will announce, in the coming days, joint work through which many psychological and social issues that resulted from the flood disaster will be studied."

*Writing by Ikram Kouachi and Ahmed Jamil

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