Center for Victims of Torture to Provide Healing Services to Refugees in Kenya

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Center for Victims of Torture to Provide Healing Services to Refugees in Kenya

St. Paul, MN – The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) today announced it will provide mental health services at refugee camps in Dadaab, Kenya to Somali and other refugees who suffered torture and war trauma. The project also will train Somali and other refugee mental health workers to care for torture and war trauma survivors over the long term.

The camps in Dadaab now have more than 300,000 refugees with facilities built to accommodate 90,000. Most of the refugees are from Somalia. The balance of refugees is from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and other countries.

The levels of trauma and torture reported among the refugees in the camps at Dadaab are severe. Many refugees have experienced targeted violence as well as random atrocities of war. Particularly disturbing is the high levels of rape and sexual violence reported by refugees throughout their experience, including as acts of war in their home communities, while fleeing to Kenya, and continuing in the Dadaab refugee camps.

“There is an enormous number of survivors of torture and war trauma in the Dadaab refugee camps who are in critical need of mental health services,” said Neal Porter, CVT’s Director of International Services. “Most are from Somalia, a country wracked by 20 years of civil conflict, and have experienced horrific violence. This project provides much-needed mental health services to refugees. We will also build capacity within the refugee community for their long term needs by training refugees as Psychosocial Counselors (PSCs).”

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 post-traumatic 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 services in the first year of operation to at least 300 individuals who are highly traumatized as a result of torture and war trauma;
  • Hire, train and supervise Somali and other refugee PSCs to provide direct mental health services to survivors;
  • Train staff of national and international nongovernmental organizations and other agencies to provide appropriate care for survivors.

In addition to individual counseling, CVT will conduct home visits to support an estimated 1,500 family members.

Funding for CVT’s work in Kenya is from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. CVT is registered as an international nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Kenya under the name the Centre for Torture Victims.

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CVT is a nonprofit based in St. Paul 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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