Robin Hammond

Monrovia, LIBERIA

Former child soldier Princes Toe (also known as 'Walking Menstruating'), 22, stands, as if she were holding a rifle, in Trench Town, an informal settlement in Monrovia inhabited mostly by ex-combatants of Liberia's civil wars. She says: 'I was fighting during the war but that just God that was with me during the war nothing happen to me. I only got affected from my mother and father. I loss them during the war. From that I got traumatise and got on the street and started hustling for myself. Help us do something because we do not have parents. We do not have ma and pa. Thank you'. 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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