More than 3,400 Genocide survivors benefitted from a mental health support project championed by an international non-governmental organisation, Médecins du Monde (MdM) or Doctors of the World. The NGO provides emergency and long-term medical care to vulnerable populations worldwide.
This was announced last Friday in Kigali, as the project wound up its activities after eight years of operation in Rwanda.
The head of Ibuka (umbrella organisation for Genocide survivors), Prof. Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, said during the first phase of the project, between 2006 and 2010, 795 survivors were helped and 45 psychotherapists were trained.
In the second phase in 2011, 521 survivors were attended to while 987 others were helped in the third phase in 2012. In the fourth phase last year, 1,161 were attended to.
“Between 2011 and 2013, 33 psychotherapists from three partner associations, Avega, Tubahumurize and Rwanda Avenir, were trained. In total, 3,464 survivors were helped and 88 psychotherapists trained,” Prof. Dusingizemungu said.
Adelite Mukamana, director of the psycho-social department at Ibuka, and one of the beneficiaries of the programme, said the mental health support was very important when Gacaca courts had just started because survivors found it very traumatising to testify due to psychological torture.
“During Gacaca, we helped people stand firm and pay little attention to the taunts aimed at traumatising them. After Gacaca, there were challenging scenarios, but we helped survivors go through them and remain strong,” Mukamana said.
She, however, added that trauma still remains a challenge.
“It is difficult to say it is on the decline but what I am sure about is that the support people are getting is helping them cope with life. Many come back to us and tell us of how we helped turn their lives around,” Mukamana said.
She said the training also provided “clinical supervision.”
A latest study by the Ministry of Health shows that 28.54 per cent of survivors have traumatic symptoms while 54 per cent of them suffer from depression.
According to a census conducted in 2009 by the Ministry of Local Government, affected survivors are estimated at 472,396.
Therese Mukandilima, an elderly survivor from Rwamagana District who benefited from the MdM project, said the counselling she received helped her overcome bitterness.
Prof. Dusingizemungu said the goal was to make available the tools already tested to a greater number of mental health practitioners.
Founded in 1980 by a group of 15 French doctors, including Dr Bernard Kouchner, former French Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, MdM supported Ibuka-Rwanda and Ibuka-France, attend to trauma cases since 2005, especially during the Gacaca period as well as in the post-Gacaca period.