Tuesday, October 23, 2012

St. Paul, MN—The Center for Victims of Torture™ (CVT) today announced it will provide community-based mental health counseling and physical therapy services to refugee torture and war trauma survivors living in Nairobi, Kenya. The project will also build the capacity of mental health, physical therapy and psychiatric care service providers to serve torture and war trauma survivors over the long term.

Nairobi is home to tens of thousands of refugees from several African countries, including Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, and Sudan.  The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates the number of refugees living in Nairobi to be more than 53,000. Other estimates say that number is much higher.

Most of the refugees living in Nairobi have fled their home countries because of war, conflict or persecution. Many are survivors of torture, are highly traumatized and have not had access to mental health and rehabilitative care.

“We know there is high prevalence of torture and war trauma survivors among the urban refugees in Nairobi,” said Neal Porter, CVT’s Director of International Services. “Yet, a significant gap exists between the overwhelming need for healing services and the resources available to treat this vulnerable population. As a result, these refugees continue to suffer from mental distress and physical pain that make them less able to care for themselves and their families. Our work in Nairobi will help bridge that gap by providing direct mental health counseling and physical therapy, as well building the capacity to sustain these vital services in the future. "

The effects of torture can lead to multiple disabling conditions that interfere with even the most basic functions of daily life.  Symptoms can include chronic pain in the muscles and joints, headaches, incessant nightmares and other sleep disorders, stomach pain and nausea, severe depression and anxiety, guilt, self-hatred, the inability to concentrate, thoughts of suicide and posttraumatic stress disorder.  Torture and war trauma survivors can become immobilized by their feelings and symptoms, unable to function within their communities or contribute to their family’s well-being.

To address the overwhelming mental health challenges, CVT will:

  • Provide direct mental health counseling services in the first year of operation to 600 refugees living in Nairobi who are severely traumatized as a result of torture or war trauma;
  • Hire, train and supervise refugee and Kenyan staff to works as psychosocial  counselors, physical therapists and outreach workers;
  • Provide specialized physical therapy services to torture and war trauma survivors to manage pain or other forms of impairment caused by torture , improve  joint mobility and regain function in daily living;
  • Engage and train staff at other agencies and organizations in the support of torture and war trauma survivors.

Over the next few months, CVT will be hiring staff and finalizing plans for its clinical space.

Funding for CVT’s work with refugees in Nairobi is from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration.


CVT is a nonprofit based in Minnesota with an office in Washington D.C. and projects in Africa and the Middle East. Visit

Brad Robideau
brobideau [at]


Media Contact

Jenni Bowring-McDonough
Media Relations Manager
+1 612-436-4886 (office) or +1 651-226-3858 (mobile)
Journalists:  If you’d like to receive CVT press releases, please email your request to Jenni Bowring-McDonough at jbowring [at]




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