On the 2nd day of April2015, Kenya woke up to unsettling news of a terrorist attack at the Garissa Moi University College. Gunmen had stormed the University killing 148 people, among them, 142 were students, and leaving over 79 casualties. Those injured were rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital whilst the deceased were taken to Chiromo Mortuary. Students who survived were then evacuated to Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, where they re-united with their relatives and later were transported home
The attack led to fear, uncertainty and traumatic stress that have affected many people: the injured in hospital, survivors, and the families of the deceased. There was therefore evident need for urgent Psychological Intervention. In collaboration with other agencies such as Kenya Psychological Association and the Kenya Red Cross Society, Oasis Africa rose to the occasion. Oasis Africa Counselors and Psychologists were quickly rounded up and set ready for service. They embarked on a rigorous Psychological First Aid response. Under the guidance of Oasis Africa CEO, Dr. Gladys Mwiti, a Consulting Clinical Psychologist and Trauma Specialist, they teamed up with their colleagues from other organizations. Working under the auspices of the Kenya Government through the Kenya National Disaster Operation Centre, over 300 Counselors and Psychologists were engaged. At the forefront, supporting this intervention was the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education, Prof. J. Kaimenyi; Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Health, Mr. James Macharia; and Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amb. Amina Mohammed.
Psychologists were positioned at different locations where they would meet those affected. For instance, there were those stationed at Kenyatta National Hospital caring for the hospitalized while another team was at Nyayo stadium giving Psychological First Aid to survivors and Chiromo Mortuary where families had gathered to identify bodies of their loved ones. Oasis Africa team was at the forefront of this intervention and selflessly devoted their best towards thecause. They camped at the various sites for the duration of the Crisis Intervention phase that lasted several weeks counseling the bereaved families in groups and at individual level. Most families were overcome with emotions especially whenever called upon to view and identify bodies. The experience was so horrifying that many of them passed out. The situation was indeed overwhelming for the Counselors and Psychologists but they managed to calm down and psychologically stabilize the bereaved that were otherwise in great anguish. TheseCounselors and Psychologists also received daily Supervision from Dr. Gladys Mwiti and Dr. Oscar Githua.
Apart from the much-needed Psychological First Aid, Oasis Africa staff also assisted in the facilitation of so many other activities. They included helping families trace missing students in conjunction with the Red Cross, linking details of the deceased to those of their relatives, distributing foodstuffs to the bereaved, communicating with the wider world on social media platforms, and so on.
When almost all of the bodies had been positively identified, families started collectingthe remains for burial at their respective homes. The Government wasat the centre of these operations through the Ministries of Education, Ministry ofHealth and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other top Government officials visited the affected families sending their condolences and grieving with them. Among the distinguished visitors was the First Lady, Hon. Margaret Kenyatta.The Governmentalso covered all the funeral expenses of the deceased and offered Kshs. 100,000 to each bereaved family. .
Our Psychologists continued to pitch their tents at the mortuary until all the claimed bodies had been collected. When they finally left, a lot had been achieved especially in terms of offering psychological support at a very difficult time. Oasis Africa is now looking forward to again offering their expertise in a longer-term trauma-healing program to survivors and affected families.
In a very special way,Oasis Africa appreciates all the staff and Psychologists who turned up for this humble call. May our Almighty God bless you abundantly. We also thank the Kenya Government through the Ministries of Education and Health for continuing to lead in the overall support – psychosocial, trauma, medical and welfare; as well as many other organizations and individuals who donated various resources and foodstuffs.
We are also grateful to our clients and well wishers whose support has been equally important. Oasis Africa is always committed to providing professional Psychological and Mental Health services to organizations and individuals in Kenya, Africa and beyond.