South Sudanese Refugee Survivors of Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Torture: Health and Justice Service Responses in Northern Uganda

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This British Academy/Leverhulme-funded research investigated the health and justice service responses to the needs of South Sudanese refugees living in refugee settlements in Northern Uganda who had been subjected to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and torture. It involved the collection and thematic analysis of the narratives of 20 men and 41 women who were refugee survivors of SGBV and torture, including their experiences in South Sudan, their journeys to Uganda and experiences in refugee settlements, in particular their access to health and justice services. Thirty-seven key stakeholders including international, government, non-government organisations and civil society organisations were also interviewed regarding their experiences of providing health and justice services to refugees. All refugees had survived human rights abuses mainly carried out in South Sudan but some had also occurred on route to Uganda and within Uganda. Despite the significant impact of their experiences, the analysis indicated that there was limited service response in refugee settlements in Northern Uganda once the immediate humanitarian crisis ended. The thematic analysis indicated five main themes coming from the interviews. These included: the nature of refugee experiences of SGBV and torture, including domestic violence and child abduction and forced marriage; issues associated with service provision such as lack of adequate screening and under resourcing of health and justice services; a lack of gender sensitivity and specialist services, particularly for men; the sustained involvement of civil society organisations and local non-governmental organisations in providing counselling and offering emotional support and hope to survivors; and enhancing health and justice responses and services to improve refugee recovery, dignity and resilience. The authors recommend that integrated gendered and culturally sensitive service provision should be adopted, which brings together formal and informal health, justice services and survivor support programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1685
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2020


British Academy/Leverhulme


  • South Sudanese Refugees
  • sexual and gender-based violence
  • torture
  • integrated service provision
  • Northern Uganda
  • health
  • Justice
  • justice
  • South Sudanese refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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