Great Lakes Project: Providing Holistic and Community–based Rehabilitation to Victims of Torture in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda
A large number of men, women and children living in the Great Lakes Region in central Africa have suffered as a result of conflict. In recent decades, the Genocide in Rwanda, civil war in Burundi and a series of brutal and protracted wars in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have scarred the region.
The exact number of those tortured in the Great Lakes Region is unknown; however, it is clear that in Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC vast numbers of people have been subjected to various forms of torture and ill-treatment, such as rape and forced disappearance. Many have been traumatised for 20 years or more and have never received treatment. The consequences are widespread, affecting individuals, their families and communities. Many torture victims suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (including anxiety, flashbacks, insomnia, nightmares and depression), and often feel shame (triggered by the humiliation they have endured). In cases where torture has been used in a systematic and widespread manner, entire societies can be traumatised.
It is against the backdrop of this climate of political instability that the IRCT’s Great Lakes Project was initiated in April 2011. The project was unique from its inception, as it brought together six rehabilitation centres from across the region in an effort to share their experiences across borders. The project supported the six centres in providing much needed holistic and community-based services to victims of torture and sexual violence, victims of genocide and other forms of political violence. Its goal was simple: To enable victims of torture and their families in Burundi, the DRC and Rwanda to assert their rights and become pro-active participating citizens in the social, economic and political development of their communities. Effective torture rehabilitation services include community outreach, accessible medical and psychological services and integration with community-oriented initiatives. These services are a critical component of socio-economic development efforts in post-conflict countries.