Clip from film, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell“
The Republic of Liberia became a country torn apart by the civil war that started on Christmas Eve in 1989. This civil war did not end until 2003, it took the women from Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, to peacefully stand up and demand for peace. The peace they sought was not for themselves but for the raping, abuse, starvation and death of children to cease.
As a UN Humanitarian Aid worker, I have just been sent to Liberia to provide aid to women, men and children in surrounding IDP camps. There are many issues that need to be resolved, however, before any action should be taken, my team will need to observe and understand what we need to do to help these displaced Liberians. Charli Carpenter once said, “Gender is a lens for uncovering hidden power relations.” By observing and assessing, my team will have a better grasp of how to better serve the Liberians, as men and women have different needs.
According to Mary-Wynne Ashford in The Impact of War on Women, there are many post-war issues that need attention as the violence is slow to change once the war ends. She also mentions that, “weapons are easily acquired, jobs and food scarcity results in agitation, combatants suffer form PTSD and sexually assaulted women may have a hard time re-integrating into the communities.” These major issues are long-term projects that will require the government and outside aid to help accomplish. Disarmament of weapons, creating jobs to jumpstart the economy, providing food aid to alleviate the food scarcity, PTSD care to the combatants, and guidance to sexually assaulted women are all needed as basics for providing aid in Liberia.
The people living in IDP camps provide the most valuable stories of their experience as it is the best gauge of their needs, both mental and physical. According to UK Immigrant Magazine, Theo Neewrayson was a Liberian refugee during the conflict (link to article). He speaks about his experiences as Liberian refugee and how he is giving back to the Ivorians refugees from Côte d’Ivoire, by helping them out as they helped him out. He has said because he was a refugee himself, he knows what war trauma and depression feels like, and group discussion sessions is a good way to cope with conflict-related trauma. The group members are able to speak about their experiences and shows that they are not alone. These group discussions will provide mental health help for combatants with PTSD and women who have been sexually assaulted. Child soldiers are another group of combatants that will require a lot of help mentally and physically, no matter what they have done. In the film, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, one of the women said that they had to learn to forgive these child soldiers as it would be impossible to move on without forgiving them.
“Work also improves ones mental health. It gives you energy and makes you feel part of a society.” said Theo Neewrayson. Theo is the perfect role model of what UN Humanitarian Aid Workers needs to be and do. We need to increase the quality of life of people living in IDP camps by providing them with a safe and conforting environment to live in, food, medical attention and work so they can start sustaining themselves. In order to prevent cultural problems from arising, UN Humanitarian Aid Workers entering Liberia must learn about Liberia such as: Liberian customs, brief history and culture.