The Ministry of National Unity and Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE), in partnership with International Organisation for Peacebuilding (InterPeace), on March 21st convened over 80 participants to discuss mental health challenges, mostly post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression affecting post- Genocide youth in Rwanda.
Participants came from public institutions, Civil Society Organisations and Faith Based Organisations, looking forward to examining persistent causes to mental health, gaps encountered by different actors, for suitable solutions.
Current figures on mental health in post-genocide Rwanda call for action; as the 2018 Rwanda Mental Health Survey (2018RMHS) conducted by the Rwanda Bio-Medical Centre (RBC) revealed a prevalence of 11.9% (19,110 cases) of depression in the general population versus 35.0% (1,271 cases) in the sub-population of survivors of the Genocide.
The Ministry of National Unity and Civil Engagement indicated that youth who survived the Genocide against the Tutsi, still face problems which include the slow process of discovering their dead parents and relatives, to accord them a decent burial, feelings of guilt from children with parents involved in crimes, lack of support and care from their community, rendering weak to achieve self-affirmation and resilience, among other challenges.
Similarly, the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is estimated at 3 6% (19,110 cases) in the general population, versus 27.9% (1.271 cases) in the sample of Genocide survivors.
Kevin Iradukunda Kalisa, is representative of ‘Child of Rwanda Family’, a local association based in Rilima sector, Bugesera district. The association oversees children born out of rape during the Genocide against the Tutsi.
‘We need much consolation, because of what we have gone through, mental health problem makes most youth preferring isolation, asking where they belong. However, counselling and engaging them in daily activities through availing start-ups would be part of healing, as we stay closer with other Rwandans in nation building.’, said Iradukunda.
According to Iradukunda, their association, which is still building structures has so far helped 10 youth to trace their families of origin. Association members try to overpower the dark moments by thinking about becoming family heads.
He called on fellow youth to think beyond, by helping those still overwhelmed by grief, thinking of even committing suicide, always to help in their healing process, but also beginning with themselves.
Clarisse Munezero, the Permanent Secretary in MINUBUMWE stated that besides efforts to counsel the youth, the Ministry has other programs, aimed to engage them into discussions with people well conversant with the country’s history, enrolling them into the Itorero, enabling them to do different projects for poverty alleviation, among other initiatives at village level.
Munezero added, ‘We consider this issue of children who do not know their clear parental lineage, especially from mothers who were raped during genocide, and all categories, basing on existing research findings. There is a need to address each problem, through concerted efforts. Apart from addressing mental health, they have other challenges, like lack of accommodation and we liaise with other institutions, including the Ministry of Local Government to identify and consider them.’
Research by the Rwanda Biomedical Centre on PTSD, like (depression, panic disorders), including suicidal behaviours, also puts the young population at risk, regardless of their level of education. This research shows that mental disorders among youth aged 14—18 years are at 10.2%.
Additional challenges are related to the reintegration of former genocide perpetrators in the community, after completing their prison sentences, added to other responsibilities of MINUBUMWE including the implementation of strategies on social cohesion and healing the wounds caused by the distortion of Rwanda’s history.