Dr. Eric Green recently joined PSOT as a postdoctoral research fellow. He comes to us from a doctoral program in Clinical-Community Psychology at the University of South Carolina. For his dissertation, Eric studied communities transitioning out of war and forced migration in northern Uganda. As part of a larger study on well-being and internal displacement, Eric conducted a participatory documentary photography project with 12 P7 students (roughly equivalent to 7th grade in the U.S. educational system) living in a large internally displaced persons camp where Eric also lived.For several months in 2007, the students captured images of life in their schools, camp community, and newly reforming villages. Eric joined his local counterpart and the students at the end of each week to talk about the images and issues in the community. This method, known as Photovoice, is designed to empower participants to create change in their lives and in the lives of their communities. To learn more about this project or to support these students as they transition to secondary school with the help of proceeds from the sale of their artwork, please visit www.displacedcommunities.org/photovoice.html and click on the gallery link.
Research Post-Doctoral Fellow Dr. Jeannie Annan and Colleauges Publish Report on The State of Female Youth in Northern UgandaSWAY team member interviewing young woman, Kitgum district. (Photograph by Khristopher Carlson)
Youth have been both the primary victims and the primary actors in the twenty-two year war between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army. It was not clear, however, exactly who is suffering, how much, and in what ways. For instance, researchers knew little about the experience of youth: what is the magnitude, incidence, and nature of the violence, trauma, and suffering of youth in northern Uganda? An understanding of the effects of war on women and girls was particularly lacking, whether they were abducted or affected by the violence in other ways.
Government, UN, and NGO officials admit a lack of field-based information on the scale of the problems facing young women or the proportion of females facing specific vulnerabilities. As a result, programming is based on rough measures of well-being, immediate and observable needs, and possibly erroneous assumptions about the types of assistance required and the appropriate beneficiary population. Not surprisingly, the targeting of services has been crude.
The Survey of War Affected Youth (SWAY) seeks to improve the information available to service providers working with youth to implement better evidence-based programming. This report presents findings on female youth in northern Uganda. Specific topics include:
- War Violence and Abduction
- Forced Marriage and Motherhood within the LRA
- Psychosocial Well-being and Mental Health
- Sexual and Domestic Violence
Findings are based on a quantitative survey of 1,018 households and 619 young women and girls. The team also conducted in-depth qualitative interviews with a sub-sample of survey respondents, their friends, community members, and family. The survey sample was drawn from pre-war household rosters of youth. Migrants were located in their current homes and we gathered data from families of young women we were unable to find, including those who had died or been abducted and not returned. Surveys were conducted between October 2006 and August 2007.
SWAY evidence strongly suggests that the Ugandan government, UN agencies, and NGOs should abandon targeting categories based on war experience, such as the “formerly abducted,” “girl mother,” and “orphan.” While important in the experience of an individual and her family, these categories do not prove useful in determining vulnerability or need. War has had a profound impact on a much broader segment of the population than those within these parameters, and that assistance should be targeted towards measurable needs—regardless of a specific war experience. Examples of observable needs to target include illiteracy, chronic unemployment, family estrangement, emotional distress, serious injury, and illness.
PSOT Researchers Explore Impact of Child Soldiering in Northern Uganda
While use of child soldiers is a tragic problem in many armed conflicts, there has been little systematic research in understanding the impact of soldiering and the protective factors for reintegration. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda has been abducting adolescent boys and girls as their main source of recruitment for more than a decade. Many of these youth are exposed to horrific violence and some are forced to perpetrate violence. The PSOT research postdoctoral fellow, Jeannie Annan, has worked with Chris Blattman from Yale University, and Dyan Mazurana and Khristopher Carlson from Tufts University, on a representative survey of over a thousand male and female ex-combatants and non-combatants in this region. The purpose of the study is to examine the impact of soldiering on education, livelihoods, psychological distress and social reintegration.
Many international agencies in the region have targeted programs based on being a former child soldier (or formerly abducted child). Based on comparisons between those who are abducted and other youth in the community, the findings and conclusions from this study do not support an expansion of programs targeted specifically towards the formerly abducted. Rather, the evidence supports the opposing view--targeting of formerly abducted youth is likely to be unsuccessful in reducing vulnerability, in addressing needs and in improving long-term reintegration. Moreover, targeting based on abduction experiences (or other such categories) also carries the risk of stigmatization. Ultimately, the evidence points to an expansion of programs that are more targeted to youth with the most serious educational, economic, psychosocial, and health challenges. Such programs would not need to target former abductees in specific, but could target based on self-selecting criteria and easily identifiable needs. This research was possible through partnerships with UNICEF and AVSI, both of whom are working to improve programs and policy for youth in northern Uganda. Details of the findings and recommendations can be found at www.sway-uganda.org.
PSOT Research Evaluates Psychosocial Interventions for Darfur Refugees
Dr. Andrew Rasmussen, Social Services Coordinator/Legal Liaison John Wilkinson, and Dr. Leanh Nguyen
In 2007 PSOT Research Director Andrew Rasmussen, John Wilkinson, and Leanh Nguyen visited refugee camps for Darfur refugees in Eastern Chad in order to evaluate a psychosocial intervention run by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS). Psychosocial programming for refugees most often involves community health capacity building as well as some form of counseling. The intervention involved using locally-trained refugees and Chadian staff as outreach workers to identify and address particularly vulnerable cases among the refugee population and referring them for appropriate services available from other agencies and counseling run by HIAS staff. Our findings indicated that HIAS’ program is well established (97% of those surveyed knew the staff member assigned to their camp block), effect in referring and following up when services are needed (85% of referrals are checked upon by HIAS staff and two-thirds of clients report improvements), and that increased counseling alleviated the problems of those with milder psychological symptoms. Recommendations included further support for outreach workers, a change in emphasis from focusing on trauma to focusing on current stressors, and a reorganization of records so as not to underestimate the work done on the ground.