Refugee trauma counseling
Residents of Kakuma Camp are in need of trauma counseling
In Kakuma camp many refugees are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They have had to leave their homes, which is traumatic in itself. Many have experienced violence, including rape and seeing their neighbours murdered. When they arrive at the camp after a difficult journey, they continue to suffer.
The refugees thought that the UN Refugee Agency – UNHCR – would ensure their physical security would be protected in the camp but that has not been the case. Women and children are frequently abused by other residents of the camp and even by the officials that have been assigned to protect them. Because the living conditions in the camp are so unlike normal living conditions, the residents’ perception of life and their behaviors are altered for the worse.
The emotional and mental wounds the refugees have are more difficult to treat and can be more long-lasting than their physical illnesses or wounds. Refugees are left with the psychological aftermath of these traumatic experiences or psychological scars. They have frequent panic attacks. The children especially are in need of counseling. They have witnessed and experienced events that no human being should have to endure, yet neither the UNHCR nor any other United Nations Agency is providing trauma counseling to the refugees.
Some residents of the camp have become mentally ill while living in Kakuma for decades and their condition of vulnerability is caused by the encampment policies. Residents are changed in both their behaviors and how they see life. It’s rather a fractured society where human beings are tagged like animals that are only to be kept alive on food aid or schooled for unlimited time frame. This casts doubt on whether the camp is a temporary or a permanent setup where refugees are identified by numbers.
We urge that the UNHCR and other United Nations Agencies and NGOs seek to find ways to provide trauma counseling to the residents of Kakuma Camp. Encouraging refugees to sing and dance according to their traditions would be one way to help them heal from the traumas they have experienced, and thus this could be done inexpensively. Many of the refugees would require the skill of a professional counselor, however, and we hope that these can be made available to Kakuma camp as soon as possible.