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The impact of war experiences and physical abuse on formely abducted boys in northern Uganda

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  • Biology
  • Logic
  • Medicine
  • Political Science
  • Psychology


South African Psychiatry Review • May 2007 76 Introduction Globally, there are differences in estimates of consequences of exposure to war situations in young people, especially the adolescent group. Civil wars such as those in Bosnia- Herzegovina, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Southern Sudan, Angola, and the Great Lakes region, including Northern Uganda, has resulted not only in the demise of many but untold suffering to children and adolescents. Adolescent boys have particularly been targeted for abduction into rebel forces to provide fighters.1-6 Physical and psychological changes, and the changing family and peer relations are usually associated with the adolescence stage of development. War makes these changes and transition into adulthood even more difficult. Many studies have reported that physical, behavioural, cognitive, and emotional sequelae such as depression, withdrawal, alienation, posttraumatic stress (PTS), health and physiological malfunctioning are associated with war in adolescents.7–11 Since 1986, Northern Uganda has been engulfed in an atrocious war characterized by extreme brutality, abductions, encampment and general loss of human dignity. As a result, about 1.6 million people, most of whom are women, children, and adolescents, are internally displaced. Of the 20,000 adolescents estimated to have been abducted and forced to participate in the war as rebel fighters, sex slaves or porters, 75% are boys.12 In captivity, the adolescents live in constant terror of sudden attacks from government soldiers, abuse by rebel commanders, threat of death, diseases, and hunger. The adolescents are forced to participate in grisly atrocities against each other and against their communities.12,13 Some of the adolescents who were abducted by rebels have escaped from rebel captivity or were rescued during battles and are being rehabilitated in centres across Northern Uganda: Gulu Save the Children’s Organisation (GUSCO), World Vision Children of War Rehabilitati

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