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South Sudan: “Our hearts have gone dark”

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July 15, 2016

sudan2SOLIDARITY WITH S. SUDAN - As the South Sudan marks its fifth anniversary, the Amnesty International in a new report, entitled “Our Hearts Have Gone Dark”: The Mental Health Impact of South Sudan’s Conflict, documents the psychological impact of mass killings, rape, torture, abductions and even a case of forced cannibalism, on the survivors and witnesses of these crimes. “While the death and physical destruction caused by the conflict and preceding decades of war are immediately apparent, the psychological scars are less visible and neglected,” said Muthoni Wanyeki, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes. The report is attached and available here. The press release is available here. [In the picture: A woman whose husband was killed by an unknown armed group the previous night. Gumbo, Central Equatoria state, 2006 © Tim McCulka].

Parties to South Sudan’s internal armed conflict that erupted in December 2013 have violated international human rights and humanitarian law, with a devastating impact on civilian populations. Both the Government of South Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-In Opposition (SPLM/A-IO), together with their respective allied forces, deliberately attacked and killed civilians, abducted and raped women, committed acts of torture, destroyed and looted civilian property, and attacked humanitarian personnel and assets. Such acts have led to an unknown number of deaths, physical injuries, the displacement of over two million people, loss of livelihoods, and high levels of food insecurity. They have also had less visible, but no less significant, repercussions on people’s mental health – the state of emotional and psychological wellbeing in which individuals can realize their potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively, and be active members of their community.

Internally displaced people impacted by the conflict described having nightmares, getting angry easily, feeling unable to concentrate and considering suicide – common manifestations of psychological stress associated with mental health disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. They attributed these impacts to their experiences as victims of, or witnesses to, torture, arbitrary detention, sexual violence, unlawful killing, and forced displacement.

This report describes the serious and significant mental health impact of South Sudan’s conflict to highlight the urgency for more attention and resources to improve the availability, accessibility, and quality of mental health services in the country. It is based on interviews with 161 internally displaced South Sudanese and with government and UN officials, donors, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and international and South Sudanese mental health professionals.
Elizabeth Deng, South Sudan Researcher [Amnesty International].

Source: comboni.org, July 09, 2016

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