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NEPAL: NGO helps children traumatised by conflict

BARDIYA, 20 December 2007 (IRIN) - Many children in Nepal have mental disorders caused by the decade-long conflict between Maoists and government forces, according to the Centre for Victims of Torture (CVICT), a local non-governmental organisation (NGO).

Western Nepal was the worst affected by the conflict, with the highest rates of killing, forced disappearance, displacement and torture.

"Thousands of children [in western Nepal] who witnessed and were victims of the violence, torture and killings, are unable to overcome their worst experiences and need help," CVICT's psycho-social trainer, Tilak Manandhar, told IRIN in Bardiya District, in mid-western Nepal.

CVICT specialises in the psycho-social treatment of children affected by conflict all over Nepal.

No accurate statistics

There are no accurate statistics, but according to Child Workers in Nepal (CWIN), a national children's rights NGO, thousands were affected all over Nepal during the period 1996-2006. Over 8,000 children were orphaned, around 40,000 displaced and over 30,000 abducted. In addition, 236 children were arrested by the security forces. Some 473 children (including 135 girls) were injured, and 423 children were killed (including 300 boys), according to CWIN.

Bardiya District, a major centre of Maoist activity, is believed to have seen one of the highest numbers of child victims: Local residents, especially children, became the targets of both the rebels and government security forces, according to the Dalit Welfare Organisation (DWO), a local NGO supporting child victims of the armed conflict.

Neglected

The Maoist insurgency ended in November 2006 after the signing of a peace agreement, but child rights activists say the rehabilitation of children has been neglected by the government.

"There is a really crucial need to rehabilitate and heal the children, who continue to be haunted by their terrible ordeals," said psycho-social counsellor Sukmaya Sunwar.

Crash training programmes

Sunwar is among 17 counsellors trained by CVICT, which runs psycho-social programmes helping traumatised children in over 17 districts of the country, with the support of Save the Children-Norway (SCF-N).

The counsellors go to villages and provide 10-day crash training programmes to local teachers, social workers, health workers, community leaders, child club students and child rights activists. They are trained to work as community psycho-social workers, with the aim of extending counselling services to as many traumatised children as possible.

"Every day there is a child suffering from mental disturbances in every village and it is shocking to know that they are still living in trauma," said Sunuwar, who has helped nearly 105 children aged 10-18 in the past three years.

One of the most difficult cases for Sunuwar was a 17-year-old girl, Gauri Devi Sharma, who became badly traumatised after her father was abducted by Maoist rebels. Sunuwar has spent nearly three years helping her in addition to arranging help from professional psychologists.

"My daughter is speaking up finally after three years and that is enough for us to feel that our daughter is not mad now," explained her 55-year-old mother, Janki Devi Sharma, who sold all the family property to pay for her daughter's medical treatment in India.

New phenomenon

Psycho-social treatment is quite a new phenomenon in Nepal. It focuses on both psychological exercises, and the involvement of the whole community in providing a hospitable and supportive environment.

Sunwar says most of the traumatised cases she has dealt with have benefited from treatment to a great extent but she feels she wants to do more.

"There's a lot we can do to heal the children but there is a dire shortage of trained counsellors and resources are limited," said CVICT's Manandhar.

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Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Health & Nutrition

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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