Via MSF.org: Chad: The fear that follows them. Providing mental healthcare for refugees. Excerpt:
Attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region have increased over recent weeks, and military presence in the area has also expanded in response. The number of people who have been forced to flee their homes has more than doubled, bringing the total number of displaced in the area to 75,000.
The fear that has been instilled in the population – consisting of refugees from Niger and Nigeria, and Chadians themselves – has only been exacerbated by the continuing violence which shows no sign of abating. Mental health needs are high, and with this latest rise in violence, will only continue to grow.
From the beginning of its response to this crisis in Chad in March this year, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) saw an immediate need to incorporate psychological care into its medical activities. Today, working in the Dar Es Salam refugee camp in the Lake Chad region, MSF’s psychologists listen to stories of horror and the ongoing fear that plagues the daily lives of survivors.
Among the patients seeking psychological support in MSF’s refugee camp clinic, one in four show signs of depression. Sleeping disorders, severe emotional reactions and trauma-related anxiety reactions are also commonplace.
“I saw Abeni[name changed], a 16 year old girl who had fled from Baga in Nigeria,” recounts Forline Madjibeye, MSF psychologist. “Both of her parents were killed, as well as her neighbours. She took the hand of her little brother and her nephew, as well as the four children who belonged to her neighbours, and eventually she made it here. I spoke with her yesterday and she said she still does not have a refugee card, and is not receiving any food. The children are crying because they are hungry.”
Escaping from this situation and arriving to extremely difficult living conditions only compounds the psychological effects of such trauma. According to Forline, the responsibility of taking care of six children in a refugee camp, combined with what she has experienced in Nigeria, has taken an enormous toll on Abeni. She continues to re-experience the fear, she is unable to sleep, is extremely stressed, and is suffering depression because her future is completely uncertain.
“We want to be able to give back some sense of control to Adeni, so that she can better handle the fear and sadness she is experiencing and take care of herself and the children,” continues Forline. “This is not an easy situation, and others have sadly been through it too. So I encourage her to share her experiences with other refugees, and not to stay at home alone.”