The Continuing Battle for BiH’s War Survivors by Elizabeth Pennington

It has been little more than two decades years since the war ended in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), but there are many people still struggling with the aftermath, which threatens to put a stop to their lives.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects millions across the world, with around 1.5 million sufferers in BiH alone, according to the data issued by the World Health Organisation in 2017. The sufferers in BiH have survived the four years war that has been called the worst siege in modern history. Yet, still, many are not receiving the vital support needed – often at an expense. This in turn, sees many not seeking treatment as a result.

It is important to note that it is not just those who were directly affected by the conflict that can develop the symptoms of PTSD – younger generations can also be exposed to symptoms through feelings such as anxiety and sleeping difficulties.

Sarah Greenwood, the development director of the therapy training organisation Phoenix Aid, with its base operating mainly from BiH, was founded by Sarah Greenwood in 2002. The organisation provides training in massage and rewind therapy and has provided support for ex-soldiers and survivors of sexual assault, with positive results being seen after a single treatment. Sarah said: “from what I understand, the symptoms of PTSD can resurface some 10 -15 years after the event that initially caused the trauma, which, without the right kind of support and training for therapists, will drain healthcare resources.” Sarah went on to say:

 “With a country as small as Bosnia and Herzegovina, these shortages can have a greater and longer-term impact on the personal lives of the sufferers. They have few they can turn to, other than family members, who can also feel burdened by caring for their loved ones. I think that far more needs to be done to help support PTSD sufferers. Medication, in my view, only numbs the symptoms, rather than developing strategies to support and care for the individual and their families.”

Globally, it is crucial we acknowledge that once a conflict has ended, the support for survivors does not cease. And that education and continued awareness campaigns are key messages to share in the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina moving forward.



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