Where there is only one psychiatrist

Twelve million people live in Burundi, but there is only one psychiatrist. WarTrauma works with the national psychiatric clinic to make sure hundreds of health workers all over the country are trained to provide psychosocial support.

Burundi, in the African Great Lakes region is one of the world’s most densely populated countries and ranks third on the list of world’s poorest countries. The country has experienced outbreaks of violence since its independence in 1962, including a twelve year civil war which claimed over 300,000 lives. The political climate remains tense, and there are regular reports of human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings and disappearances. New refugees from Burundi continue to arrive in neighbouring countries every day.

The decades of conflict have resulted in a high number of traumatized men, women and children. In addition there is a high suicide rate and many mental disorders related to substance abuse. Poverty, unemployment and the resulting lack of hope for improvement affects the lives of individuals, families and communities.

Burundi does have the opportunity to address the issue. The Government has formulated a national mental health action plan and the psychiatric clinic works with a group of motivated staff. WarTrauma supports the clinic and its team to improve the national structure for providing mental health care and psychosocial support.

In January we trained 12 health workers to become trainers. Within one week they were able to teach 50 local health workers how to provide psychological support. This group of health workers still mainly works around the capital Bujumbura, but in the coming months the trainers will start educating more remote staff.

Burundi has a number of smaller district hospitals for general health care and depends on mobile clinics and travelling nurses to bring health services to even the remotest villages. In the future the country hopes to have permanent health posts in these villages.

WarTrauma is now raising funds to be able to make the next step and make sure people living in these remote villages will be able to access quality psychosocial support on a regular basis. This means more people need to be trained and the trainers need supervision and support to improve their skills and expand their knowledge.

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