The role of traditional cultural practices in trauma management: the case of internally displaced people in Rift Valley
Ojiambo, Mary A
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There are estimated to be about 23.7 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) worldwide in 52 different countries today, living amidst war and persecution. They have little legal or physical protection and a very uncertain future, since they are not covered by international laws regarding refugees. Internally displaced people have numerous problems. Of special mention is trauma that is as a result of their experiences during conflict. By March 2008 there were 300,000 displaced people in Kenya. Most of them reported being raped, their houses burnt and relatives killed. It is from such experience that this study sought to interrogate the role of traditional cultural practices in trauma management with a view to generating knowledge and helping the government and other organizations working with IDPs. The study was guided by the following objectives: to find out how traditional cultural practices have been used in managing post conflict trauma among the internally displaced people, to determine the effectiveness of traditional cultural practices in managing post conflict trauma among IDPs, and to look at the challenges facing traditional cultural practices. The data for this study was collected through key informant interview and through focus group discussions. Focus group discussion was organized with women and children. Four groups of 12 members each were organized with the women and 2 groups of 12 members each were organized with the children. Data obtained from the study was analyzed and presented in thematic form. The study found out that family institution and community social networks were critical in trauma management. The family institution provided social security and support that was needed for the healing process. Other members of the community provided material help like food, shelter and clothes which were instrumental in helping IDPs release stress. The study found out that religious practices was also instrumental in managing trauma among IDPs. Through spiritual prayers and sacrifices rDPs have been able to understand their responsibility to God, and to other members of the society. This has enabled them to contribute towards the welfare of the community rather than brood over their miseries. Prayers helped them to heal from their past experiences. Poverty was cited as one of the challenges facing traditional cultural practices in management of trauma. Most IDPs lost their property during the conflict. As a result they did not have enough resources required for some of the elaborate ceremonies stipulated by some traditional cultural practices, like the mourning institution that has elaborate practices that require some financial resources. Urbanization has affected the role of the traditional cultural practices in trauma management. Most people have moved to urban centres or the peri-urban centres, thus abandoning some of the cultural institution that playa pivotal role in trauma management. Some don't adhere to the strict mourning ceremonies, yet they had therapeutic effects.