In a clinic that serves the needs of former child soldiers in Paynesville, Liberia, a common problem arises. There are not enough beds for the children – many of which arrive drug addicted or are diagnosed schizophrenic – and as a result many must leave the clinic after only three months. “The centre can’t keep them any longer because it doesn’t have enough beds,” says John Philip, a psychiatric nurse.
According to the nurse, many among the Paynesville patients have been driven to self-mutilation, attempted suicide and violence against those closest to them.
The children are returned to their families, often unwelcome and certainly without proper long-term professional care and treatment.
Families – often reluctant to re-engage with offspring considered “crazy, dangerous and inhabited by evil” – must then return to the hospital three months later for fresh supplies of the legal drugs used “to control” their children.
The problem is overwhelming:
Experts calculate that more than half the population of 3.5 million have psychological problems, 80 percent of them war-related, often the legacy of rape and the conscription of 21,000 children, some as young as nine, who were used as soldiers or sex slaves.