Trauma experts deployed to offer support during Kwibuka25

Mourners listen to a testimony at Murambi Genocide memorial in Nyamagabe in the past. File.

For many, the Genocide commemoration period brings back traumatic memories.With activities to mark the 25th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi set to begin today, stakeholders have come up with strategies to deal with trauma cases that tend to occur during this period.

Prior to the commemoration month, Association of Genocide Widows AVEGA-(AGAHOZO)held three main activities. One included preparing Genocide survivors, training of experts such as clinical psychologists, and therapists among others on how to help those who are traumatised.

Survivors are mostly trained on how to cope with trauma during commemoration events as well as other issues related to trauma.

The association also trains other people who aren’t experts to help out with counselling; this is done to avail enough support for those in need of these services.

There is also a follow-up done that helps to monitor victims on how they are faring even after the Genocide commemoration period.

At the District level

In each district, AVEGA has at least one or two psychologists; this makes it a total of 28 psychologists across the country.

In referral hospitals, there will be one psychologist who will be responsible to handle trauma cases that may arise.

To ensure that all the cases of trauma are managed and handled well throughout the country, health centres are equipped with medical personnel.  There will be at least two psychologists at each health centre.

Elderly Genocide survivors in Nyanza District.

The case with PTSD

Louise Bajeneza, head of counsellors at AVEGA, said that the psychologists are responsible to detect, identify and know the kind of trauma one is experiencing, and then provide the necessary support.

There will be counselling for the victims and a follow-up on the issue, especially those who will be requiring ample care.

Bajeneza notes that, because it’s not possible to erase memories of what happened during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi among the survivors, there are people who have developed post-traumatic stress disorder but there are strategies put in place to help them too.

She adds that one of the things they do is to follow up on the victim’s daily life, not only through counselling but also involving them in other activities.

The activities, she says, include psycho-social development where they help one develop when it comes to emotional, intellectual, social capabilities and functioning over the course of their life.

“We focus on making sure that survivors are able to overcome trauma through different activities, including engaging them in economic activities such as farming, raring of animals, among others, which is part of dealing with PTSD,” she says.

Handling victims

Trauma victims are urged to stay close to friends and family during this time such that they have someone to lean on when it gets too challenging.

The team (therapists and clinical psychologists) are equipped to identify trauma victims, especially during commemorating events.

Bajeneza says survivors can also contact experts for they will be available the entire time during these events.

She adds that these experts will be identified by their different attires or badges noting that this will be easier for the public to reach out to them.