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Indigenous Healing of War-Affected Children in Africa

Edward C. Green and Alcinda Honwana

Children in war-torn countries of Africa and elsewhere are often direct or indirect victims of violence and/or witnesses to various horrors associated with war. Children as young as seven or eight are forcibly conscripted and indoctrinated as child soldiers or porters in several African countries. Girls as well as boys often suffer, some being forced into sexual or other service at early ages. In conflicts where terrorizing civilians has become a routine means to political and military ends, women and children are deliberately targeted for torture and death. Globally, there are at least one million children separated from their parents because of war, and there are many thousands who have been traumatized even more directly by war. Child victims of this sort often exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to use the western psychiatric label. Symptoms of PTSD and related stress reactions common in children include: avoidance/numbing, as in cutting off of feelings and avoidance of situations that provide reminders of traumatic events; insomnia; inability to concentrate; “intrusive re-experiencing” such as nightmares and flashbacks; lethargy; confusion; fear; aggressive behavior; social isolation; and hopelessness in relation to the future; and hyperarousal as evidenced in hypervigilance and exaggerated startle responses.

High Plains Applied Anthropologist No. 1, Vol. 21, Spring, 2001 pp 94 - 97

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