Family Focused, Psychosocial Intervention with War-Exposed Youth at Risk of Attack and Abduction in North-Eastern DRC
A Pilot Study
Rural communities in the Haut-Uele Province of northern Democratic Republic of Congo live in constant danger of attack and/or abduction by units of the Lord's Resistance Army operating in the region. This pilot study sought to develop and evaluate a community-participative psychosocial intervention involving life skills and relaxation training and Mobile Cinema screenings with this war-affected population living under current threat. 159 war-affected children and young people (aged 7–18) from the villages of Kiliwa and Li-May in north-eastern DR Congo took part in this study. In total, 22% of participants had been abduction previously while 73% had a family member abducted. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress reactions, internalising problems, conduct problems and pro-social behaviour were assessed by blinded interviewers at pre- and post-intervention and at 3-month follow-up. Participants were randomised (with an accompanying caregiver) to 8 sessions of a group-based, community-participative, psychosocial intervention (n = 79) carried out by supervised local, lay facilitators or a wait-list control group (n = 80). Average seminar attendance rates were high: 88% for participants and 84% for caregivers. Drop-out was low: 97% of participants were assessed at post-intervention and 88% at 3 month follow-up. At post-test, participants reported significantly fewer symptoms of post-traumatic stress reactions compared to controls (Cohen's d = 0.40). At 3 month follow up, large improvements in internalising symptoms and moderate improvements in pro-social scores were reported, with caregivers noting a moderate to large decline in conduct problems among the young people.