A large number of men, women and children living in the Great Lakes Region in central Africa have suffered as a result of conflicts. 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. Many have been traumatized for 20 years or more and have never received treatment. The consequences are widespread, affecting individuals, their families and communities.
UYISENGA NI IMANZI (UNM), a Rwandan rehabilitation centre implemented a holistic rehabilitation program in partnership with local partners from April 2011 in Burundi (with SAP GL), the DRC (with AVVDH and FEDI CONGO) and Rwanda (UNM directly and with ARAMA). After medical, psychological and sometimes legal support, victims benefit from a combination of community-based social counselling and income generating activities. Socio-economic rehabilitation of torture victims is an essential part of holistic rehabilitation. Restoring a person's socio-economic status can break the cycle of stigmatization and exclusion victims may be trapped in. To identify which kind of income generating activities were most suitable for each individual, a screening process was put in place. Once the activity was chosen the individuals were put into groups and received training on group management Initially, the income generating activity groups were supported with 100 percent of the funding or material they needed, for example land and seeds. This direct support was systematically reduced to support the groups to become self-sufficient. UNM and their partners in Burundi and DRC also helped groups wanting to sell their produce, by linking them to suitable markets. The work was implemented with respect to national and UNM standards and regulations.
These groups not only provided (and continue to provide) revenue for the beneficiaries, promoting independence and self-sustainability, but also created a therapeutic framework, in which victims can work together in trust and mutual assistance. The therapeutic element of the income generation activity groups proved to be especially effective when combined with community-based social counselling. UNM directly supported income generating activities, reaching out to approximately 1000 direct beneficiaries (and approximately 3000 in collaboration with partners) and a larger number of indirect beneficiaries. Most importantly, the activity strengthened the confidence and dignity of the beneficiaries, who can play a role in society again and provide an income for their families.
Funding & No Conflicts Declaration
This work was funded by the EU and the La Luz Fund, this article is based on the original work of the partnership. There are no conflicts of interest.