THOUSANDS of children and adults in the Central African Republic (CAR) are receiving trauma-counselling to help them to recover from conflict, including sexual violence.
The work is being supported by the charity Tearfund, which is working with charities based in CAR. Its country manager, Cyriaque Harelimana, said this week: “Children who have been traumatised have no hope for the future for themselves. This work helps people feel they are not alone, and tries to address the stigma, and help them to feel they can speak out and ask for what they need.”
The programme has been working to identify groups who have been traumatised by the years of conflict; counsellors then work with the families and their children.
Mr Harelimana said: “We have been working with pastors and community leaders in the country because people feel more able to talk with them, and they help to identify families most in need. We have trauma specialists who offer psychological support.
“Children are the future of CAR, and they can change the country for the better; and, as they grow up, trauma-counselling is needed more than ever before. It will take ten to 20 years to try and address the problems in depth.”
Fighting in CAR has been going on for decades, since the country gained independence from France in 1960. But three years ago, intercommunal fighting broke out between Muslim rebels and Christian militias. Thousands of civilians were forced to flee, and women and girls were subjected to sexual violence.
Tearfund’s support has so far helped 3800 children through trauma counselling. One of those who received help, Arsene, witnessed the militia’s murder of his brother, in front of him, and was forced into hiding. He suffered years of nightmares. After receiving psychological support from Tearfund’s partner Jupedec, he said: “Since the visits of counsellors, I can now sleep without having those nightmares.
“I appreciate their support very much, as they did not just focus on my problem, but they brought me messages of hope.”