Health Experts Call For Greater Focus On Mental Health In Africa
“As African countries strive to meet the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 and plot a new development agenda thereafter, health experts are gathering evidence across the continent to make a case for a greater focus on its millions of mentally ill,” IRIN reports. “Experts say investing in mental health treatment for African countries would bolster development across the continent, but national health priorities have been overtaken by the existing MDG structure, which has specific targets for diseases like malaria and HIV, placing them higher on countries’ agendas than other health issues,” the news service writes. “Global experts celebrated the passing of a World Health Assembly action plan on World Mental Health Day in May, calling it a landmark step in addressing a staggering global disparity,” but, “[i]n order for the plan to be implemented, both governments and donors will need to increase their focus on mental health issues,” according to IRIN.
“As it stands, [USAID], the world’s biggest bilateral donor, will only support mental health if it is under another MDG health priority such as HIV/AIDS,” the news service notes, adding, “Meanwhile, mental health receives on average one percent of health budgets in sub-Saharan Africa despite the WHO estimate that it carries 13 percent of the global burden of disease.” The news service examines the link between poverty and mental illness; highlights pending mental health legislation in Uganda, a country “ahead of most on the continent with its comprehensive National Policy on Mental, Neurological and Substance Use Services, drafted in 2010”; and writes, “Although a number of projects have shown success in working with existing government structures to ultimately integrate mental health into primary health care, the scaling up of such initiatives is being hindered by a lack of investment, as the funding of African health systems is still largely seen through donor priorities, which have been focused elsewhere” (9/2).