Robin Hammond

Monrovia, LIBERIA

Former child soldier Makey Rutty (also known as 'Rescue Mother'), 28, holding a piece of wood, as if it were a gun, in Trench Town, an informal settlement in Monrovia inhabited mostly by ex-combatants of Liberia's civil wars.

She says: 'I join the army when I was nine years old and I try to hold my arm. My arm sling was dragging on the ground and now I left in the bush for 13 years and UN disarm me and brought me to the army base and I came in Monrovia... I do not have nothing. People we join into smoking and other things... And you know we really want to get back to our mind'.

Thousands of Liberia's children were conscripted to fight in the country's bloody civil wars between 1989 and 2003. The guns they held gave them power and status. They took what they wanted from a population that feared them. When the fighting was over many of these former combatants experienced significant stigma when they returned to their communities. In turn, the now destitute adult ex-fighters formed ghettos where they continue to call each other by their war names and respect ranks held during the fighting. Among these former child soldiers Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with its constituent symptoms of aggression, depression, sleeplessness and flashbacks, is rife but rarely treated.

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Robin Hammond
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