Terror victims: 'More can be done and it needs to be done quicker'

6:28 pm on 12 April 2019

Concerns around support services for Muslims affected by the Christchurch massacre are being addressed by a community leader.

Farid Ahmed (C), a survivor of the twin mosque massacre, offers prayers inside the Al Noor mosque,

Farid Ahmed, a survivor of the attack on two Christchurch mosques, prays inside the Al Noor Mosque. Photo: AFP

Women's Organisation of the Waikato Muslim Association lead co-ordinator Aliya Danzeisen yesterday sent a letter to support agencies detailing her biggest areas of concern and the importance of acting quickly on those matters.

"More can be done and it needs to be done quicker," Ms Danzeisen said.

"There's some areas where the needs aren't being fully met, but the good thing is we're in discussions and trying to get those solved as quickly as possible."

Previously, some affected family members expressed their financial struggle after the attacks.

Ms Danzeisen said not only have those who were injured lost their income, but also family members who take care of them.

"That alone is an additional burden that people are financially having," she said. "Normally they'd be pulling in, as a family, maybe $10,000 in that period or $15,000 and right now they've only got $5000 to cover it but … they're injured and they can't do anything about it.

"Then if you add on top of that ... the fact that they were the main contributor to their parents back home and now they can't do that either, so you have a lot of pressures coming on.

"They're indicating that they're not getting enough financial support to be able to meet those needs, to put them even in the same financial spot as they were before the incident, so those things need to be expedited."

She said some widows also struggled because they were having to learn about managing the household or business finances, which some had never done before.

"Some are even having to learn how to do online banking, you might go 'oh well that's simple', well yeah if you have access to all the accounts and how the business is run.

"There'll be widows, who maybe they were working but now ... they're taking care of their kids who were traumatised by the loss of their father ... and now you have a household where two incomes that were there aren't coming in and in a very, very trying situation [the widow] has to be what would be the strongest person."

Read more: Iddah gives Muslim women time to grieve and reflect

On Wednesday, Victim Support said it had distributed almost $1.7 million in financial support to victims, including $1.4m raised on the Givealittle page set up for the victims, and $250,000 from Ministry of Justice grants.

It said altogether 800 people affected by the terror attack had received support in some form.

Victims received financial support immediately after the shootings, with a $15,000 lump sum payment for each deceased family member, and a $5000 payment for those who were hospitalised.

People walk past flowers and tributes displayed in memory of the twin mosque massacre victims outside the Botanical Gardens in Christchurch on April 5, 2019.

Muslim women must undergo a four-month iddah, or waiting period, to mourn their late husbands, one of several cultural differences that need to be respected by those trying to help all those affected by last month's attacks in Christchurch, Aliya Danzeisen says. Photo: AFP

But there were cultural differences and special needs - such as the iddah, or waiting period, that Muslim widows observe - which services needed to be aware of when providing support, Ms Danzeisen said.

"The cultural approaches to offering support versus it being labelled and identified ... as charity; those approaches are cultural approaches that need to be responsive to the needs of the families.

"While all the community is Muslim, there's a wide array of cultures in there as well and those dynamics have to be taken into consideration."

Guidance around those special needs was being offered to support agencies, and a visit from two specialist teams overseas is being arranged to help families as well as frontline staff, Ms Danzeisen said.

"For example, in some of the counselling there'll be some unique aspects, that due to our religious teachings, that just to make sure they're aware so that people are receptive to reaching the help that they need."

Parents have indicated they are in need of such a service, she said, and it would help them know what to expect and where to get help for their children if they display behaviour that causes concern.

However, Ms Danzeisen also acknowledged that there were pressures on both sides.

"You have the 50 dead and the 49 who were injured quite horrifically and then you have the people who were present but weren't physically injured but there's definitely shocks to their systems ... plus if each individual has four or five members, you're talking almost 1000 people.

"So you wouldn't think the system would be adequately prepared for something like this."

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