MRes/PhD in International Development

Lead Research Organisation: London School of Economics & Pol Sci
Department Name: Department of International Development

Abstract

In the context of post-war northern Uganda, after a conflict whose dynamics were extremely complex and violent (Van Acker, 2004; Finnstrom, 2008; Allen, 2010), victims and perpetrators find themselves living side by side of an everyday basis.
This creates ongoing problems in everyday life. Former Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) combatants - here also Formerly Abducted People (FAP) - are characterized by the ambiguous identity status of both victim and perpetrator, and thus face very heavy stigmatization when going back to their ancestral communities. Such stigmatization is not only a factor participating in the ex-combatants mental health and suffering, but it also poses a threat to the long-term process of reconciliation within communities (Hovil and Quinn, 2005; Baines, 2010; Annan, Blattman and Horton, 2006).

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000622/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1953959 Studentship ES/P000622/1 19/10/2017 30/09/2020 Costanza Torre
 
Description The work is ongoing as fieldwork is still being carried out. However, some preliminary key findings include: The South Sudanese refugees emergency in Uganda is one the most under-funded and corruption-ridden refugees situations in the world. The lack of basic needs (e.g. food) finds justification within a framework encouraging self-reliance and self-entrepreneurship. People often experience intense psychological stress due to the everyday hardship of trying to build a livelihood in rural areas characterised by chronic poverty and a moribund economy, while at the same time the humanitarian aid they rely on is constantly reduced. The mental health response to the South Sudanese refugees emergency in Uganda is shaped by the same logic, creating a tight parallel between ideas of mental health and economic self-sufficiency, and can be described as twofold: one the one hand, it is very focused on Western notions of psychological trauma. This is problematic as the focus on psychological trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder shifts the focus away from the dire conditions in which South Sudanese refugees in Uganda live, and from the psychological stress that they experience due to present circumstances and often lead to serious depression and suicidal ideation and acts. On the other hand, the mental health response consists in the provision of psychiatric medication even in rural and low-level Health Centres (something otherwise not found in Uganda). The side-effects of such medication often significantly worsen the social suffering that refugees experience daily, especially in the case of young men who are constantly overlooked by livelihood interventions and find themselves unable to provide and perform traditional gender roles that contribute to a meaningful sense of identity. The NGOs in charge of such treatment are not equipped for meaningful follow ups, and almost invariably, refugees stop complying with treatment, which has detrimental effects on their mental health and wellbeing due to the neurological implications of abruptly interrupting treatment.
Exploitation Route The research has very practical implications for both refugees policy and the field of Global Mental Health, a pillar of which is the expansion of psychotropic medications in the Global South and particularly in humanitarian emergencies. Recommendations have already been proposed in various presentations with UNHCR and Ugandan Ministry of Health meetings. These range from broad recommendations about attentively consider gender dynamics when planning and implementing livelihood and mental health interventions in refugee settings, and especially actively making sure take into account men's (and especially young men's) experience of displacement to very specific recommendations that target particular challenges in providing psychiatric treatment in an extremely resource-poor setting.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Healthcare,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description Presentation delivered at Social Medicine International Course in Gulu, northern Uganda 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I delivered a talk presenting my research findings and the value of ethnography in mental health research at a Social Medicine course attended by international students from the US, Canada, Europe and East Africa.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation for mental health practitioners 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I delivered a presentation on the relationship between gender and mental health in refugee settings at the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support National Working Group (MHPSS NWG) in Kampala. Practitioners contributed with insightful comments and reported significant interest in considering this area more carefully during their professional activities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Presentation for policymakers 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact In February 2020, I delivered a presentation at a UNHCR and Ministry of Health (MoH) "Health and Nutrition Meeting" in Kampala, Uganda, on my research findings and proposing practical recommendations for improving mental health and psychiatric treatment in displacement. The presentation sparked an extremely lively and insightful discussion, during which the audience, ranging from UNHCR officers to representatives of NGOs involved in mental health work, to Ministry of Health representatives expressed great interest in the topic. Furthermore, the audience also acknowledged a change of mind about the value of ethnographic research in refugee health research. Based on one of my proposed recommendations, representatives from UNHCR Nutrition sector expressed the intention to start working towards providing people undergoing psychiatric treatment with an increased food ratio to make compliance with treatment easier to achieve.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Presentation for practioners 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I delivered a presentation of my research findings to NGOs working in the refugee settlement where I have been conducting my 12 month fieldwork. The audience, of around sixty NGO workers and Uganda Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) representatives, reported great interest in the findings and expressed the intention to more carefully consider some of the issues that I pointed out, especially in relation to gender performance and mental health.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020