Psychosocial intervention for war-affected children in Sierra Leone

Plan International Consultant, West Africa Regional Bureau, Freetown, Sierra Leone.
The British Journal of Psychiatry (Impact Factor: 7.99). 03/2008; 192(3):212-6. DOI: 10.1192/bjp.bp.107.038182
Source: PubMed


There are no psychosocial interventions to address both educational needs and psychological distress among displaced children in post-conflict settings.
To assess the psychosocial status of displaced children enrolled in the Rapid-Ed intervention; and to determine whether the Rapid-Ed intervention alleviated traumatic stress symptoms that interfere with learning among war-affected children in Sierra Leone.
A randomly selected sample of 315 children aged 8-18 years who were displaced by war were interviewed about their war experiences and reactions to the violence before and after participating in the 4-week Rapid-Ed intervention combining basic education with trauma healing activities.
High levels of intrusion, arousal and avoidance symptoms were reported at the pre-test interviews conducted 9-12 months after the war. Post-test findings showed statistically significant decreases in intrusion and arousal symptoms (P<0.0001), a slight increase in avoidance reactions (P<0.0001) and greater optimism about the future.
The findings suggest potential for combining basic education with trauma healing activities for children in post-conflict settings, but confirmatory studies using a control group are needed. Conducting research in post-conflict settings presents unique challenges.

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