Poor Survivors of Katrina Remain Scattered

Louisiana children displaced by Hurricane Katrina number more than 125,000. Part of the American underclass, they and their families now live in tiny Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) trailers that have been placed in remote fields with few dependable services and resources. There is no indication of when these families will be able to return to some version of normal life.

Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University and president of the Children's Health Fund, writes that one in three children in FEMA trailers has at least one chronic illness like asthma requiring medical care. Half of the children who had access to medical care before the storm no longer do, and evaluation and treatment for symptoms of emotional or behavioral disorders are almost impossible to secure.

Nearly one in four school-age children is either not enrolled in school or misses 10 days of class every month. Many of those who do attend school in their temporary host communities find the classrooms overcrowded, the staff exhausted, and stress levels unbearably high.

For $100 million, the government could support a force of at least 200 pediatricians and family doctors, 100 specially trained mental health workers, 25 mobile medical units, and a much strengthened school-based health care network throughout the Gulf region.

Irwin Redlener, “Orphans of the Storm,” Op-Ed, New York Times, 9 May 2006.
Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/09/opinion/09redlener.html?_r=1&oref=slogin