Evaluation of psychosocial intervention for children exposed to ethnic conflict in Kenya

Posted by ap507 at Aug 22, 2016 12:15 PM |
PhD Student Elijah Getanda outlines their project investigating what helps children affected in post-conflict areas
Evaluation of psychosocial intervention for children exposed to ethnic conflict in Kenya

FANET sponsored nursery school children

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In as much as it is well established that armed conflict, resulting from either political or ethnic violence, impacts adversely on children’s mental health, psychosocial interventions for affected children have received little research attention. There have been many studies conducted on young people’s mental health needs, but there is still limited evidence on what helps children affected in post- conflict areas.

The aim of this study was to assess the impact of such an intervention to help children exposed to ethnic violence in Nakuru, Kenya, to cope better with their distress and other mental health problems. The study was carried out in two linked phases. In phase 1, focus groups were held with community stakeholders (young people, parents, teachers and other professionals) to establish their views on children’s mental health needs and culturally acceptable interventions.

FANET sponsored High school students
The results from this phase indicated that lack of resources (funding, personnel), poor collaboration (government, community), impaired parenting, socio-economic challenges, stigma and limited knowledge on child mental health were the main barriers. These factors were taken into consideration in selecting and delivering a trauma-focused intervention, Writing for Recovery, in phase 2, to help children understand better the sources of their distress and cope more adaptively in the future. The data has been collected and is currently being analysed.

The findings of this study highlight the importance of taking into consideration stakeholders’ views, particularly those of children and young people, in informing the planning, delivery and evaluation of interventions that tailored to particular sociocultural contexts. For such interventions to be sustained, they require a clear therapeutic framework, evidence-base and sociocultural adaptation. This study is also expected contribute to the limited body of literature of evidence-based psychosocial interventions for children in post-conflict settings.

I also work for the Friendly Action Network (FANET), a non-governmental organization established, registered, licensed and operating within Nakuru County

Professor Panos Vostanis interacting with children and their carers
and the surrounding areas in Kenya, as the general manager and network co-ordinator. FANET champions the assistance of the victims, mainly children and young people, affected by social-political and ethnic conflict through empowerment, prevention, protection, emergency response, and provision of materials, technical, legal and psychological services. My PhD research findings will assist policy makers and other stakeholders in using the model to help children in other traumatized communities.

FANET has worked closely with the University of Leicester for the last three years, through the programme World Awareness for Children in Trauma (WACIT) led by Professor Panos Vostanis. WACIT has been instrumental in supporting FANET either directing or indirectly to achieve its goals. First and foremost, WACIT has facilitated training workshops such as improving nurturing between caregivers and children; understanding the impact of trauma on children and how volunteers can help; and network-building. Some of the stakeholders who have benefited from these trainings include teachers, counsellors, parents, volunteers, administrators and other professional who work with children:

"So far I have really, really gained a lot from this training twice. Training last year for families with traumatic experiences and how these children are affected, it was about how to handle these children in class" - Special needs teacher, Kenya

Secondly, WACIT has also taken a valuable role in mobilising fund raising to pay for tuition fees, buying desks, distributing books and writing materials to poor children in schools from slums in Nakuru. The climax of this project will be a sporting event in November 2016 at Mwariki High school in the slum. The event will include children, teachers, parents, Panos and the surrounding community. This will be the sixth WACIT phase of the 6 Continents in 6 Weeks project.

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