A post-traumatic stress disorder among internally displaced people in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review

Assefa Agegnehu Teshome, Endeshaw Chekol Abebe, Misganaw Asmamaw Mengstie, Mohammed Abdu Seid, Getachew Yideg Yitbarek, Yalew Melkamu Molla, Nega Dagnaw Baye, Taklo Simeneh Yazie, Gashaw Walle Ayehu, and Molla Jemberie Taye

Frontier Psychiatry, Volume 14 (2023) 



This article reviews the evidence on the prevalence and determinants of post-traumatic stress disorders among internally displaced people in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The review covers studies in English published up to June 2023 that estimate the prevalence of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in sub-Saharan Africa. The authors identified 11 studies that meet the inclusion criteria. The studies covered over 11,000 participants from 14 sub-Saharan African countries including Nigeria (4 studies), Ethiopia (3 studies), Sudan (3 studies), Somalia, the Central African Republic, Uganda, and Kenya. 

Main findings: 

  • There is an extremely high prevalence of PTSD among IDPs in sub-Saharan Africa. The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in sub-Saharan African countries ranged from 12 percent in Central Sudan to 86 percent in Nigeria. Eight of 11 studies found a prevalence greater than 50 percent. These prevalence rates are much higher than similar studies conducted in other regions. 
  • Socio-demographic characteristicsage, sex, marital status, and educational attainmentwere factors associated with PTSD. Current age between 18 and 27 years, and age at first displacement between 19 and 35 years were associated with PTSD. Studies in Ethiopia and Uganda find an association between female sex and PTSD, while a Nigerian study finds an association between male sex and PTSD. Single marital status and low educational attainment are also associated with PTSD. 
  • Depression, anxiety, and experiencing or witnessing traumatic events were also associated with PTSD. Depression and anxiety were found to have a positive association with PTSD in several studies. Experiencing or witnessing traumatic events, psychological trauma, rape or sexual abuse, and frequency of displacement were found to be associated with PTSD. 

The authors conclude that the prevalence of PTSD in the Sub-Saharan Africa region is higher compared to other regions of the world. Socio-demographic characteristics, including age, being single, being female, and low educational attainment, were found to contribute to PTSD. The review also identified depression, anxiety, and experiencing or witnessing traumatic events as contributors to PTSD.