Credit: PVCHR

Did you know that half of all torture survivors treated around the world also live in poverty?

Indeed, poverty can be seen as the leading risk factor for torture: Being poor makes you more likely to be tortured; being tortured makes you more likely to be poor. Over recent years, IRCT members have reported that around 50% of their clients live in poverty, according to the standard in their nation. This compares to a global average of roughly 20% living below the internationally recognised medium poverty line of $3.20 per day, meaning the poor are more than twice as likely to be tortured.

IRCT’s Livelihoods project is an effort to break the link between poverty and torture.

Member centres have long called for a holistic approach to torture rehabilitation, reporting that psychosocial and medical services are not effective if the basic needs of survivors are not met. Mental and physical health has been the primary focus of rehabilitation programmes, but many centres in the Global South report progress is difficult to maintain without socio-economic support to the survivor. After all, torture survivors are still mothers, fathers, husbands and wives, with households to feed, and often battling against the unemployment and disability directly caused by the torture they have suffered. 

Put simply, if basic needs like food, sanitation or proper housing – the outcomes of poverty – are not addressed by our member centres as they treat survivors, rehabilitation is unlikely to succeed.

Credit: ACTV

Poverty rate among survivors, according to national standards.

Source: IRCT Global Impact Data 2021

“Basic needs have to be met. You cannot offer effective therapy to a person who is asking for bread.”

Suzanne Jabbour, Restart, Lebanon

“Rehabilitation without livelihoods is like a car without tires.”

Peace Avola, ACTV, Uganda

“If you want to eliminate torture you are going to eliminate poverty. If you are going to eliminate poverty you need to eliminate torture.”

Lenin Raghuvanshi, PVCHR, India

“We can now pay school fees, medicine, food and save up some money. It is really helping us to feel strong and proud again.”

A survivor describes the impact of ACTV’s rural livelihoods programme in the Gulu district of northern Uganda.

Ghurahu, a day labourer from Varanasi and member of India’s most marginalised caste, knows all too well the link between poverty and torture. Unlawfully arrested and beaten unconscious by police, Ghurahu’s healing began with talking therapy at IRCT member the PVCHR. But his life was also improved by some very practical assistance: Seeds to plant his own kitchen garden. 

Now, instead of taking rotten scraps from the market, Ghurahu has enough fruit and vegetables to feed his family. 

Watch this video to learn more about his story and PVCHR’s inspiring work.

Developed and implemented through a Steering Committee of five member centres with experience in integrating livelihoods as a component of rehabilitation, the Special Project is one of the goals the IRCT has set itself under its Strategy 2022-2025. 

The Livelihoods initiatives empower individual survivors to regain control of their and their family’s socio-economic situation, thereby restoring the agency lost during their torture experience. For many torture survivors, successful livelihoods initiatives thus present fulfilling life projects that both enable and empower them to heal. 

The Livelihoods Steering Committee:

  • African Centre for Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (ACTV), Uganda
  • Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO), Nepal
  • Restart, Lebanon
  • Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture (TRC), Palestine
  • Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India
IRCT’s Global Standards on Rehabilitation

Standard 15: Definition of Quality of Life

Apply the following definition of quality of life: The subjective well-being of individuals and their communities within their specific social and cultural context in relation to factors such as physical and mental health; family, social and community relations; culture; education; employment; economic security; exposure to physical and psychological violence and freedom; good governance and basic human rights; spiritual life; gender equality and non-discrimination; religious beliefs; legal status; and the natural and living environment.