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

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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