HIAS-Chad provides trauma counseling and social services in five camps in Chad for refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. We also facilitate relocation for those who need additional protection.
Shortly after the first arrivals of Darfurian refugees across the border into Chad, HIAS co-founded the Psychosocial Initiative for Darfurian Refugees.
Created in 2005 in partnership with IsraAid, the Israeli Forum for International Humanitarian Aid, the program was designed to strengthen refugees’ psychological and social conditions and to teach skills needed to survive and function in the aftermath of genocide and other forms of extreme violence.
HIAS’ work with Darfurian refugees in Eastern Chad continues today in five camps that serve 60% of the camp population -- estimated at 101,000 by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian affairs (OCHA) in April 2008.
At the end of 2004, approximately 200,000 Sudanese refugees fleeing terror and devastation in the region of Darfur sought shelter in Chad. There are now an estimated 300,000 who have crossed the border.
Their displacement is compounded by the devastating violence they survived. Their protracted displacement affects them in additional ways. Refugees in camps have no rights of mobility or employment; their lives remain on hold in unfamiliar environments leading to depression, feelings of worthlessness, and they are at risk of developing maladaptive coping mechanisms.
HIAS provides psychological services for survivors of trauma and torture in group and individual settings; identifies the most vulnerable refugees and implements strategies to ensure they access basic needs services; trains key community members to develop awareness for psycho-social issues among the refugees, enabling them to better care for themselves and members of their community; establishes activities for children and youth that will facilitate their adjustment to living in the refugee camps and dealing with the trauma they survived; creates safe environments in the camps, particularly for women at risk and unaccompanied children.
HIAS’ children’s activity in the camps in eastern Chad includes athletics, songs and art, and offers young refugees an opportunity to engage in normal childhood activities and discuss their traumatic experiences with a view to healing.
The activities begin with songs from home. Before the sun gets too high, they continue outside with athletics and games. The children then return to HIAS facilities for art therapy. Children’s activities end with songs and traditional dancing.
The children carry traumatic, emotional experiences that need to be expressed. The fact that the children readily engage and disclose their traumatic experience is a remarkable testimony to the trust and comfort they feel in the presence of the HIAS counseling team.
The HIAS sessions provide a rare and much-needed oasis of guidance and normality amidst their life in the camp, and the counselors are exceptional figures of nurturance. They are starved for normal, positive social play. HIAS provides for time, space, and elementary instruments wherein these children can engage in age-appropriate and rehabilitative activities. This crucial HIAS initiative provides a modicum of normalcy and a glimmer of hope to their challenging lives in the camps.