On April 5, 2021, the Ministry of Health through Rwanda Biomedical Centre, Mental Health Division organised a media briefing session on trauma prevention and management during the 27th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi while adhering to COVID-19 preventive measures.
The 2018 Rwanda Mental Health Survey found that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is eight-fold more prevalent among Genocide survivors compared to the general population (27.9% vs 3. 6%).It is the second mental disorder reported after Major Depressive Episode among this group (35.0 %).
The research also shows that depression among general population is 11,9%, and at least one of five Rwandans have a mental health condition. Mental disorders among youth aged 14 -18 years old are 10.2%.
The Ministry of health through RBC/Mental Health Division has set up a plan from the community level up to the referral Hospital to manage trauma cases during the 27th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi. CHWs in all villages and community psychosocial Counsellors from Organizations under IBUKA umbrella and other organizations will provide support using mobile phones to manage trauma cases and will refer not recovered cases to the nearest District hospital.
Dr. Yvonne Kayiteshonga, the Mental Health Division Manager at RBC announced that Rwanda will use the experience acquired last year during Kwibuka 26 whereby around 50% trauma cases were successfully handled at family level using phones interactions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19” proved that mental health cases can be handled using a phone. We can provide treatment to people who need specialized mental health care at hospital level and for follow up for improved care and rehabilitation of the person. Although social distancing is necessary during this COVID-19 pandemic, social connection is possible by using of phones to interact with our loved ones and people with Trauma issues during the commemoration period.” Kayiteshonga said.
To handle trauma cases during the 27th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, the Ministry of health has trained 55,435 community health workers to provide assistance to people who will experience trauma and stress disorders during the 27th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
According to Claire Misago, the Director of Community Mental Health Rehabilitation Unit in RBC, awareness messages through radio and TV will be aired from 6th to 13 th April,2021 to inform the community how to get support in case there is a person who identifies any symptom of trauma in the community, by reporting it by phone, to the (CHWs) community Health worker who have been brifed to handle such a situation and link the person to the health facility if need be.
“Most efforts will be put at a family level, we will also work closely with Community based counsellors from genocide survivors’ organizations who participate in the follow up trauma cases and have been given basic skills for early identification and provide psychological first aid and referral to individuals with trauma symptoms.” Said Misago
“We have at least 2 community health workers at the village level who have been trained to provide care for people with trauma signs, if there is no improvement they will call 114 for referral of acute cases to be transferred to the nearest district hospital by mental health nurses or psychologists, the third level is Referral Hospital where cases will be handled by psychiatrists and team.” Added Misago.
On April 7, 2021, Rwanda will start the period of the 27th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi. The Ministry of Health through RBC have mental health professionals prepared at all levels of care to provide mental health and psychological support to trauma cases who will be identified during this period while observing COVID-19 prevention measures.