Terrorism and Public Health

Terrorism and public health

In a major terrorist attack, 40 CRPF personnel were martyred in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Thursday when a terrorist attacked with an explosive-laden vehicle into one of the buses of the convoy of the security forces. We salute our martyrs and stand with the families of our martyr soldiers.

Disasters like terrorist attacks are hard to predict and usually are out of control. They use biological and chemical weapons as agents of warfare to destabilize the common public or community. Hence, such attacks impact health directly and indirectly.

The chemicals, fumes, viruses, bacteria, and low-level radiation can be harmful. It can affect air quality, cause shortages of safe water and food, and cut off electricity, gas, telephone, and other services.

Public health is defined as the science of protecting safety and improving the health of communities through education, policy-making, and research for disease and injury prevention. It promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work, and play.

People who have been affected by such events may show feelings that others find hard to understand. These feelings may be:

  • Fear, shock, horror and helplessness
  • Anger that this has happened – why has this happened to me or my loved one?
  • Loss of control; of being a target and not able to control the fear
  • That you might have done something to lessen the trauma or avoid the attack
  • Guilt for surviving when others did not
  • Grief for those who have died

The threat may spread through a community via;

  • In the air (Chemicals are the most likely source of air contamination)
  • In the water supply or food (Chemicals, heavy metals like lead and mercury, and living organisms such as bacteria and viruses can all be threats to a safe water supply. These substances can also contaminate food)
  • Epidemics – From human to human
  • Epizoonosis – From animal or insect to human (Some bacteria, viruses, and other biological agents can be spread from person to person or from animals or insects to people
  • Physical Health consequences like direct and indirect voluntary injuries
  • Mental Health – Fear, initial shock-destress, Anxiety, Depression, Post-Traumatic stress disorder.
  • Raised community Violence
  • Morbidities and Mortalities

What steps you can take to help keep yourself and your family safe;

  1. Learn about specific health threats and what you can do to reduce the risk to your health and safety. Limit your exposure to the areas of attacks as health hazards can spread through a community.
  2. Make an emergency plan and gather the supplies you may need during an emergency. Make an emergency plan and a supplies kit.
  3. Learn basic first aid skills such as CPR in case of injury.
  4. Keep in touch with people you care about.
  5. Give and receive emotional support.
  6. Health sector should take responsibility for availing equitable access to pre-hospital medicine and mass casualty management. The epidemiological and clinical management of specific risks, outbreaks, casualties, and risk communication should be on priority.

Terrorism is detrimental to mental health, premature mortality, and economic losses. It also undermines the central tenets of public health to improve the health and well-being of populations. It is not an individual experience; it is violence at the population level.

We will not Forget. We will not forgive.