PLAN international and UNESCO worked on a psychosocial pilot project to normalise ‘displaced children’s lives and alleviate psychological distress by participating in non formal education, trauma healing and recreation activities’. A psychosocial assessment study was conducted with 8-17 year-old displaced children in Sierra Leone to assess emotional and mental health of the children after the RUF invasion of Freetown (Sierra Leone) on January 06, 1999.
A total of eight 60-min structured trauma healing activities were implemented in the camp classes twice per week during the 4-week intervention. These activities focused on reducing the children’s levels of emotional distress and post-traumatic stress reactions that often interfere with learning such as difficulty concentrating, nightmares, flashbacks and hypervigilance. High levels of intrusion, arousal and avoidance symptoms were reported at the pre-test interviews conducted 9–12 months after the war. Post-test findings showed statistically significant decreases in intrusion and arousal symptoms, a slight increase in avoidance reactions and greater optimism about the future. The findings suggest potential for combining basic education with trauma healing activities for children in post-conflict settings, but confirmatory studies using a control group are needed.