Imagine spending your entire life in a refugee camp. The Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya is the largest such site in the world, home to more than 350,000 people. Many are women and children, and some have never known any other home.
Along with the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, United Methodist Women is a supporter of the Center for Victims of Torture’s (CVT) work at Dadaab. CVT is the first NGO at the camp to provide psychosocial counseling to those who have experienced violence and war atrocities.
Women and girls especially are often victims of sexual violence during war. Furthermore, once settled in Dadaab, women often become the single head of household and are saddled with many new roles. When girls at the camp go to get water, for example, they are at a risk of sexual assault and, partly for protection, may marry when they are as young as 13. The Center for Victims of Torture recognizes the need for psychosocial support for the many refugees who, in addition to fleeing their homes, are still at risk of being traumatized in the camp.
Trauma Needs Healing
Like any injury, trauma needs healing, and CVT was the first organization at Dadaab to focus on providing psychosocial mental health services, creating a program to provide counseling to those suffering from trauma.
CVT trains refugees and others who live in the camp to help provide access to mental health services. Riding bicycles, these paraprofessionals travel through the camp going door to door to let refugees know about the counseling services that are offered. In a quiet area of the camp, with the guidance of experienced psychotherapists, survivors receive around 10 weeks of small group or individual counseling. The organization also works to help remove stigma and reaches out to the community around the affected individuals. It also trains other organizations and support staff.
Women and children are especially affected by war and violence, on a personal as well as a psychosocial level. And while violence in and outside of the camp continues, the good news is that the lives of women and girls are slowly improving. “Even if it is a slow process, things are beginning to change for women in Dadaab,” says former COV head in Dadaab, Sarah Farah.
Thanks to your Mission Giving, United Methodist Women is able to support organizations like the Center for Victims of Torture that help women and families heal.