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Notes from the Ground

CVT Ethiopia Gambella Commemorates the UN Int'l Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Published August 17, 2022
CVT Ethiopia Gambella staff hold "Support life after torture" banner.

The team at CVT Ethiopia Gambella planned and prepared a number of activities to mark June 26, the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, this year, but the team ran into challenges. As a result of unrest in Gambella in June, the celebrations were halted.

Nevertheless, Gambella CVT staff did not give up their plans of engaging the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Refugees and Returnees Services (RRS), implementing partners and the refugee community to commemorate the day. On Friday, July 29, the team hit the ground and traveled from their houses, heading to CVT’s newly established healing center located in Zone A of Nguenyyiel South Sudanese refugee camp to mark the awaited international day.

Events of the day started ahead of time with the playing of a pre-recorded clip with mental health community sensitization information that had been translated into the local language, Nuer. This sensitization provided information about mental health and about the UN Day in Support of Victims of Torture. ZOA Int’l supported CVT with making this recording and disseminating sensitization messages in the camp, all done three days before the big event.

On the day of the event, CVT clinical staff ushered in partner staff, and refugee community members started trickling into the newly launched CVT healing center. By 9:30 am local time, the day’s program commenced with a full capacity of visitors, clients and host community members. CVT provided visibility materials in the form of umbrellas and T-shirts; a visible banner hung at the entry to CVT’s healing centers located in Zone D and A of the camp.

A pastor from the refugee community led an opening prayer followed by welcoming remarks by a CVT counselor. Present invited guests included representatives from UNHCR, RRS, International Medical Corps (IMC), Help Age, Médecins Sans Frontières, refugee leaders and the host community. During her speech, the UNHCR protection officer based in Nguenyyiel refugee camp applauded CVT for the noble mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) they render to survivors of torture and war trauma, including to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). In addition, the IMC mental health officer shared appreciation for CVT’s partnership and collaboration in the provision of MHPSS to refugees.

To close out the day, CVT staff and refugees later joined in a tree planting session in the new center. This ritual sends a positive message to all about renewal, growth, beauty and peace.”

Next, refugee leaders narrated at length how CVT psychosocial counselors reach out to vulnerable people in their houses through door-to-door community sensitizations and refer them to qualified CVT counselors for mental health assessments and treatment.

A cultural dance presented by the IMC women’s group climaxed the celebrations; refugees and CVT staff joined them with joy. In addition, CVT psychosocial counselors presented a rib clacking drama/role play that highlighted CVT’s MHPSS interventions, including psychoeducation.

Ephrem Mengistu, CVT Gambella zonal manager, crowned the commemoration by highlighting the rationale for the day and reading a speech from Dr. Simon Adams, CVT president and CEO.

The CVT Gambella team was very pleased that a record crowd of hundreds of refugees attended the ceremony – so many people were present. To close out the day, CVT staff and refugees later joined in a tree planting session in the new center. This ritual sends a positive message to all about renewal, growth, beauty and peace.

The day of commemoration was a great success: for sharing information and learning, for community and fellowship, and for taking time to acknowledge victims of torture and to honor all the progress being made to bring them effective support and care.

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