Reasearch Awards nomination

Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Public Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access Research article

Disability associated with exposure to traumatic events: results from a cross-sectional community survey in South Sudan

Touraj Ayazi1*, Lars Lien27, Arne Henning Eide3, Rachel Jenkins4, Rita Amok Albino5 and Edvard Hauff16

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Blindern, P.O box 1171, Oslo, 0318, Norway

2 National Center for Dual Diagnosis, Innlandet Hospital Trust, Furnesvegen 26, Brumunddal, 2380, Norway

3 SINTEF, Technology and Society, Pb. 124 Blindern, Oslo, 0314, Norway

4 Department of Health Services and Population Research, King’s College London, Institute of Psychiatry, David Goldberg Centre, De Crespigny Park, London, UK

5 Ahfad University for Women, P.O. Box 167, Omdurman, SUDAN

6 Division of Mental Health and Addiction Department of Research and Development, Oslo University Hospital, Ulleval, Kirkeveien 166, Building 20, Oslo, 0407, Norway

7 Faculty of Public Health, Hedmark University College, P.O.Box 400, Elverum, 2418, Norway

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:469  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-469

Published: 14 May 2013



There is a general lack of knowledge regarding disability and especially factors that are associated with disability in low-income countries. We aimed to study the overall and gender-specific prevalence of disability, and the association between exposure to traumatic events and disability in a post-conflict setting.


We conducted a cross-sectional community based study of four Greater Bahr el Ghazal States, South Sudan (n = 1200). The Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) was applied to investigate exposure to trauma events. Disability was measured using the Washington Group Short Measurement Set on Disability, which is an activity-based scale derived from the WHO’s International Classification of Disability, Functioning and Health.


The estimated prevalence of disability (with severe difficulty) was 3.6% and 13.4% for disability with moderate difficulties. No gender differences were found in disability prevalence. Almost all participants reported exposure to at least one war-related traumatic event. The result of a hierarchical regression analysis showed that, for both men and women, exposure to traumatic events, older age and living in a polygamous marriage increased the likelihood of having a disability.


The finding of association between traumatic experience and disability underlines the precariousness of the human rights situation for individuals with disability in low-income countries. It also has possible implications for the construction of disability services and for the provision of health services to individuals exposed to traumatic events.

Disability; Traumatic events; Post-conflict; South Sudan