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First Kenyan assessment shows high trauma exposure

14 September, 2010

Most adolescents in Nairobi City public schools were not only extensively exposed to Kenya’s previous post election violence, they also had high levels of trauma exposure and many indicated critical levels of PTSD, Gladys Mwiti Phd reports.

Mwiti has led our Kenya-based Nairobi Public School based Trauma Healing, Peacebuilding and Reconciliation project which has assessed the traumatic exposure and symptoms in 882 students in 49 public high schools.

Oasis Africa has undertaken the first assessment of this kind in Kenya in partnership with the Children and War Foundation and the Ministry of Education.

Shocked by multiplicity of trauma exposure

“We are just shocked by the multiplicity of trauma exposure and the impact of the same upon this population,” Mwiti says in a report.

The study found that 73 per cent of the youths aged between 12 and 19 years were exposed to Kenya’s 2007 post election violence.

62.8 per cent of this sample scored in the risk group for PTSD diagnosis, Mwiti states in her report. The young people indicated traumatic loss as a major contributor to symptoms of PTSD. In addition to traumatic loss, the young people reported multiple traumatic events, such as domestic violence, exposure to gang-related or community violence, physical abuse, politically-instigated violence.

“In a stringent competitive school system where only the best proceed with education, hopelessness resulting from trauma symptoms may curtail the youths’ ability to perform well in school, and the anxiety may add to the already existing post trauma distress. Few trauma-specific services exist in the school system to assist these students. In addition, few students report traumatic exposure after it has taken place, and few still understand the relationship between their experienced trauma and current functioning.”

Door opener

The outcomes have opened doors for training of peer counsellors in these schools as well as meetings with school heads to assist them in planning for counselling services in the schools.

Mwiti adds, “As much as the schools have open doors for counseling services, the major hindrance for the Oasis Africa team will continue to be lack of funds to support this urgent critical need. The Government does not have psychological services in its budget and many donors do not include children mental health among needs that need funding although academic performance in schools continues to suffer due to the load of distress many children bear.”

However, trauma interventions are immediately required to help these children and to keep as many of them as possible from lapsing into complex trauma, Mwiti says.