Trauma Healing In S.Sudan A Key To Peace, Says Activist

A Civil Society Activist in Imatong State has campaigned for trauma healing in South Sudan saying it is a fundamental recipe for peace restoration in the country.

TORIT, 02 November 2016 [Gurtong] -"It must be done at the top level downward and should be done before we start talking about peace. This is critical because we are all affected and obviously traumatized. Yes! No one claims he or she is exceptional," said Dr. Jean-Marie Hatungimana.

Dr. Hatungimana is the Director of Generation in Action, GIA, one of the Civil Society Organisations operating in the region.

Many South Sudanese, in the on-going conflict in the country, have already lost their dear ones along with basic belongings/property including jobs.

A survivor, Mr. John Adam, lamented how he painfully lost his wife with 2 children and luckily survived with one.

Adam disclosed that during the continuing conflict, he lost his entire business; lodges and accommodation facilities, shops plus public transport vehicles to looters.

"What I have lost can't be imaginable because that was ideally everything which I thought I possessed and could help me solve any problem in my lifetime. What next can i think of now that everything I got through tedious hard work is gone!" exclaimed Mr. Adam.

Dr. Hatiungimana told Gurtong that help reduces numerous psychological problems among the people particularly counselling in South Sudan is crucial for those affected.

He lobbies and advocates for establishment of more counselling centres.

The Director recommends for a joint agencies' approach to lead and expedite the initiative in the war-torn South Sudan.

He has been visiting key government officials in Torit, especially those of the State Education Ministry, to basically borrow and sell for the idea (trauma healing Campaign).

One of Dr.Hatungimana's proposals, is setting up counselling centres in all schools be it primary or secondary.
In July a rights group said mass killings, rape, torture, abductions and forced cannibalism have led to an increase in mental illness in South Sudan, with patients routinely housed in prisons due to an almost total absence of mental healthcare.

There are only two practising psychiatrists for South Sudan's 11 million people, Amnesty International said in a report ahead of the country's fifth anniversary of independence on July 9.
Trauma sufferers may themselves have seen their homes or communities destroyed or be victims of physical abuse such as rape, torture, or other violence. Trauma can also be induced by serious threat or harm to loved ones, according to researchers.

Traumatic events can fundamentally change not only victims’ way of life, but also their psychological outlook.

Dr. Hatungimana who holds a PhD (doctorate) in Psychology, specialists say trauma, however, is often more difficult to deal with, because frequently the perpetrators still live in close proximity to victims thereby providing constant reminders of the past, as well as the threat of further incidents .

Even if the immediate source of the trauma is removed, time does not necessarily heal all wounds. The survivor may, in fact, continue to suffer, to appear 'frozen in time'.

With conflict remaining an unfortunately common reality for many, techniques have emerged to help trauma victims interpret and heal from their experience.

Individuals can suffer trauma in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.

Individuals are often unable to cope with these extreme events, consequently inhibiting both their ability to carry on with life and to function in society.

Trauma can have a range of different cognitive, emotional, physical, and behavioural effects on individuals.

Cognitive responses include memory difficulties, lack of concentration, poor judgment, inability to discriminate, and inability to make choices.

Emotional responses include depression, withdrawal, excitability, flashbacks, intense fear, feelings of helplessness, loss of control, loss of connection and meaning, generalized anxiety, and specific fears.

Physical responses include stomach pains, brightness of the chest, headaches, perspiration, and psychosomatic complaints.

Behavioral responses include irritability, startling easily, hyper-alertness, insomnia, communication difficulties, and drug, cigarette, or alcohol abuse.

All told, victims of violence often feel humiliated, vulnerable, helpless, and that their lives are out of control.

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