Uganda

After abduction: exploring access to reintegration programs and mental health status among young female abductees in Northern Uganda

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Conflict and Health 2014, 8:5 doi:10.1186/1752-1505-8-5

Published: 7 May 2014

Abstract (provisional)

Background
Reintegration programs are commonly offered to former combatants and abductees to acquire civilian status and support services to reintegrate into post-conflict society. Among a group of young female abductees in northern Uganda, this study examined access to post-abduction reintegration programming and tested for between group differences in mental health status among young women who had accessed reintegration programming compared to those who self-reintegrated.

Methods
This cross-sectional study analysed interviews from 129 young women who had previously been abducted by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). Data was collected between June 2011-January 2012. Interviews collected information on abduction-related experiences including age and year of abduction, manner of departure, and reintegration status. Participants were coded as 'reintegrated' if they reported >=1 of the following reintegration programs: traditional cleansing ceremony, received an amnesty certificate, reinsertion package, or had gone to a reception centre.

A t-test was used to measure mean differences in depression and anxiety measured by the Acholi Psychosocial Assessment Instrument (APAI) to determine if abductees who participated in a reintegration program had different mental status from those who self-reintegrated.

Results
From 129 young abductees, 56 (43.4%) had participated in a reintegration program. Participants had been abducted between 1988-2010 for an average length of one year, the median age of abduction was 13 years (IQR:11-14) with escaping (76.6%), being released (15.6%), and rescued (7.0%) being the most common manner of departure from the LRA. Traditional cleansing ceremonies (67.8%) were the most commonly accessed support followed by receiving amnesty (37.5%), going to a reception centre (28.6%) or receiving a reinsertion package (12.5%). Between group comparisons indicated that the mental health status of abductees who accessed >=1 reintegration program were not significantly different from those who self-reintegrated (p > 0.05).

Conclusions
Over 40% of female abductees in this sample had accessed a reintegration program, however significant differences in mental health were not observed between those who accessed a reintegration program and those who self-reintegrated. The successful reintegration of combatants and abductees into their recipient community is a complex process and these results support the need for gender-specific services and ongoing evaluation of reintegration programming.