HIAS Initiative Will Help Traumatized Sudanese Refugees in Chad

Posted on Wed, Aug 31, 2005 at 15:37 pm

(New York, NY) – Because of a shared concern for the plight of Sudanese refugees in Chad, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the Israel Forum for Humanitarian Aid (IsraAid) have launched the Initiative for Sudanese Refugees in Chad.

“With HIAS operating in the Chad refugee camps, the Initiative creates an exceptional opportunity to demonstrate the Jewish commitment to assisting all people fleeing persecution and is being well received by the international community,” says Eric Newman, director of international operations at HIAS. “This is a remarkable time for all of us.”

The initiative has received support from IsraAid coalition members B’nai Brith, The American Jewish Committee and Ve’ahavta, the Canadian Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Committee.

Background

During 2003 and 2004, some 200,000 Sudanese refugees fleeing a state-sponsored campaign of terror and devastation in the region of Darfur in western Sudan sought shelter in Chad. Tens of thousands more internally displaced people in Sudan remain poised to follow them if security in Darfur continues to deteriorate.

For people fleeing Darfur, their physical displacement is compounded by the devastating violence they survived, explains Newman. “Many of them are traumatized and unable to engage in the simplest tasks of daily life. Their mental state directly impacts their physical condition and their ability to access available assistance.”

Community support systems have been shattered and the vulnerable find it hard to adapt to the challenging new reality of displacement. “Without assistance to address this trauma and its impact, the refugees may never succeed in reasserting control of their lives and functioning to secure even their basic needs,” says Newman.

Mission

The HIAS-IsraAid initiative is intended to strengthen the refugees’ psychological and social conditions and to convey skills needed to survive and function in the aftermath of extreme violence. Ultimately, the goal of the initiative is to prepare the refugees to re-assert control over their lives and find opportunities for durable solutions to their displacement, whether it is returning to Sudan, integrating with their hosts in Chad, or being resettled to another country.

The objectives of the initiative are:

  • systematic identification of the most vulnerable refugees (victims of rape, separated children, single mothers, elderly, handicap and trauma victims) through refugee community leaders and implementation of strategies to ensure they access basic need services;
  • training of community key members to develop awareness of psychosocial issues among the refugees, enabling them to better care for themselves and members of their community;
  • establishment of activities for children and youth that will facilitate their adjustment to living in the refugee camps and dealing with the trauma they survived; and
  • provision of direct psychological services for survivors of trauma and torture.
Strategy

The initiative is executed in partnership with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and operates in two Camps, Bredjing and Treguine, with a combined population of 43,000 refugees. Implementation of the initiative began with the arrival of HIAS Psychosocial Care provider’s team in July 2005. The team consists of four psychosocial experts who posses extensive experience in dealing with victims of violence within an African context. To build the capacity of the local communities to deal with such tragedies, HIAS will train and employ local staff who will become focal points for training in the community and identifying of individual and communal needs.

In addition to the support received from IsraAid, the HIAS Initiative is supported and funded by UNHCR and the Jewish Coalition for Sudan Relief.