Genocide widows body fights trauma through exercise

Wednesday March 27 2019


Avega members in Southern province. PHOTO | FILE  

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The Genocide widows’ Association (Avega) will seek to use exercise and physical fitness routines to fight trauma and distress, especially among elderly survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi who still exhibit signs of trauma.

As Rwanda gears up for the three months of commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi for the 25th time, the barbarity of the genocide still shocks as images of savagery continue to resurface in minds of survivors and traumatise them.

According to the Avega executives, the initiative under the Horana Ubuzima Bwiza catchphrase (Staying Healthy), the genocide widowers across the country were last Friday mobilised to take part in sports activities.

“Sport reduces stress, but more importantly it reduces trauma. After realising that our members are not taking part into collective sport activities, yet most of them have trauma, we decided to introduce the special occasion for them and mobilise them to join sports,” said Valerie Mukabayire, the president of Avega Agahozo.

Trauma is described as severe emotional or mental distress caused by a deeply distressing or life-threatening event; in this case, loss of loved ones during genocide or related cases such as rape.

According to the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide’s report released last year, trauma among the survivors is at 27.9 per cent, a situation which the report says, must be addressed.

The report indicates that the trauma is slightly higher among male survivors than their female counterparts at 28 per cent and 27 per cent respectively.

Among survivors aged above 35 years, about 32 per cent are traumatised.

This is because they were older during the genocide and experienced its effects more.

However, for those aged between 24 and 30 or those who were babies and children, the trauma rate is lower, standing at 18 per cent.

Some survivors seek support from health facilities or practitioners, but, expressed concern that 40 per cent of the survivors turn to churches and prayer hoping to get counselling. Another 29.6 per cent go to traditional healers for help.