Sixteen years on

6 Apr 2010

Sixteen years on from the genocide in Rwanda and there remain many challenges for survivors. Most pressing for widowed survivors is lack of adequate shelter, and for orphaned survivors difficulty in completing their education.

A shared challenge for all survivors is dealing with the psychological effects of the genocide. As such, the focus of this year’s commemoration in Rwanda is on managing cases of trauma. It will also be the theme for the commemoration events across the UK this month.

Trauma is also a focus of You Alone May Live, the book published today by SURF Founder, Mary Kayitesi Blewitt. In the book Mary documents how she provided support to AVEGA Agahozo in the immediate aftermath of the genocide, which lead to the establishment of SURF.

AVEGA was formed as a solidarity group to help widows of the genocide deal with trauma, and continues to address that need amongst its members through programmes such as that supported by CAFOD. In the UK, SURF partners with the Medical Foundation which delivers invaluable support to survivors still affected by trauma now living here.

Noam Schimmel this week writes in the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance that because of the trauma that survivors continue to experience living in Rwanda, they should be given the right of settlement outside of Rwanda:

For many survivors, remaining in Rwanda post-genocide poses insurmountable obstacles to their psychological health and well being. They are subject to flashbacks and continuous retraumatization. Many find themselves trapped in the fears prompted by their experiences, the sadness and pain, and the wounds that cannot heal because justice is so incomplete and because thousands of the perpetrators of the genocide have been freed leaving survivors feeling vulnerable and despondent that justice is not and will not be done.

It is for this reason, why focusing on addressing the trauma of survivors even beyond the commemoration is so important.

In addition, you can hear today SURF Patron Lindsey Hilsum report on Witness on the BBC World Service of her time in Kigali at the outbreak of the genocide on April 6th 1994.