Transforming Tragedy: A Longitudinal Research and Policy Initiative in Sierra Leone

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Principal Investigator:
Theresa Betancourt, Assistant Professor of Child Health and Human Rights

Francois Xavier Bagnoud

Dates of Research:
May 25, 2008 — October 31, 2009


During Sierra Leone’s civil war, from 1991-2002, over 15,000 children were forced to fight on the frontlines or to serve the fighting forces in other capacities. Some of these children were successfully reintegrated after the war, but others continue to face social stigma, poor education and employment prospects, and serious mental health consequences. This longitudinal study will examine a cohort of former child soldiers previously studied by the PI in 2002 and 2004. The study will utilize surveys, in-depth qualitative interviews and focus groups and will re-interview the original adolescent sample (who received DDR services), along with a comparison group of youth who reintegrated with no formal intervention and caregivers. The findings will be disseminated to key stakeholders in social services for war- affected youth and will add to earlier findings regarding risk and protective factors that can be targeted by interventions. It will also provide the objective evidence necessary to reinvigorate policy initiatives aimed at serving war-affected youth in Sierra Leone, preventing further social and psychological problems caused by exposure to violence, including involvement in future conflict.