Background: The resilience of post-war displaced persons is not only influenced partly by the nature of premigration trauma, but also by postmigration psychosocial circumstances and living conditions. A lengthy civil war leading to Eritrea separating from Ethiopia and becoming an independent state in 1991 resulted in many displaced persons.
Method: A random sample of 749 displaced women living in the shelters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa was compared with a random sample of 110 displaced women living in the community setting of Debre Zeit, 50 km away from Addis Ababa, regarding their quality of life, mental distress, sociodemographics, living conditions, perceived social support, and coping strategies, 6 years after displacement.
Results: Subjects from Debre Zeit reported significantly higher quality of life and better living conditions. However, mental distress did not differ significantly between the groups. Also, Debre Zeit subjects contained a higher proportion born in Ethiopia, a higher proportion married, reported higher traumatic life events, employed more task-oriented coping, and perceived higher social support. Factors that accounted for the difference in quality of life between the shelters and Debre Zeit groups in three of the four quality of life domains of WHOQOL-BREF (physical health, psychological, environment), included protection from insects/rodents and other living conditions. However, to account for the difference in the fourth domain (social relationships), psychosocial factors also contributed significantly.
Conclusion: Placement and rehabilitation in a community setting seems better than in the shelters. If this possibility is not available, measures to improve specific living conditions in the shelters are likely to lead to a considerable increase in quality of life.