No Normalcy for Hurricane Ike's Smallest Victims

Getting back to normal has been difficult for Hurricane Ike's victims.

Oct. 19, 2008 — -- Many of Hurricane Ike's smallest victims still are looking for some semblance of normality, months after the storm devastated Texas' Gulf Coast. Family homes still bear the scars of the tempest that wrecked Galveston and parts of Houston.

"Children who have gone through a disaster [need] some assurance that things will return to normal at some time in the foreseeable future," said Irwin Redlener, of Children's Health Fund.

Galveston closed remaining shelters housing Ike evacuees and hosts only three emergency day-care centers.

"It is not something people think about immediately, that government officials and state officials think about does not immediately come to their mind that child-care is a necessary step to getting back into a normal routine for the community," said Kathleen Whalen of Save the Children's Domestic emergency unit.

A new national commission on children and disasters, which is designed to create a safety net to care for kids when disaster strikes, met for the first time this week. But there is still much work to be done.

Save the Children estimates as many as 400,000 children were affected by Hurricanes Ike and Gustav.

"We are not prepared as a country to take care of kids during a disaster, that's the bottom line," said Mark Shriver of Save the Children. "We are not doing a good enough job preparing and we are not doing a good enough responding to their needs long-term after a disaster."

More Than Food and Shelter

In the aftermath of Ike and Gustav, Save the Children provided 400,000 diapers, 400,000 baby wipes and over 1,000 cribs to some 50,000 children.

But as Hurricane Katrina taught the nation in 2005, helping the children goes beyond food and shelter. An estimated 55,000 children displaced by Katrina still are suffering the psychological effects of the disaster.

"We see this continuing cascade of psychological, behavioral, academic problems which are affecting the children most severely," Redlener said.