FG, Spain, WHO Partner to Treat Persons with Mental Illness in N’east

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By Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri

The World Health Organisation (WHO), the governments of Nigeria and Spain have collaborated towards bringing treatment to persons with mental illness in the troubled North-east.

A recent report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) showed that 1.7 million persons are internally displaced in the three Boko Haram worst affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe in North-east Nigeria.

Going by the WHO estimation that as many as one in every five internally displaced persons (IDPs) may need mental health care, over 340,000 persons may need to be treated for mental health cases.

Speaking on Tuesday, during the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria Cabanas Marcelino’s visit to the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Maiduguri to assess facilities for mental health care, a medical consultant to WHO, Dr. Hassan Bala, lamented that in emergency settings, as the case in the North-east Nigeria, the rate of common mental disorders can double due to gender-based violence, abductions, and gross atrocities that may trigger psychological problems which take years to heal.

He said: “Despite this huge demand, the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Maiduguri, Borno State is the only specialised mental healthcare hospital in North-east Nigeria.”

He lamented that only 18 per cent of the fully or partially functioning health centres in Borno State can provide survivors of violence with integrated clinical management services.

He said through the WHO’s mental health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP), 10 mental health specialists have been engaged and trained with each conducting 10 outreach visits monthly to 3-5 health facilities in Borno State in addiction to the introduction of mental healthcare services at the primary healthcare facilities and outreach sessions across Borno State.

He said WHO has also conducted close to 1,100 mental healthcare outreach sessions in 40 health facilities reaching over 17,000 contacts between October 2017 and September 2018; referred over 1,500 patients to the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Maiduguri for further management and care.

He disclosed that 106 non-mental health primary healthcare workers on mhGAP-IG have been trained to increase access to services for people with mental health challenges, neurological and substance abuse disorders and that the Borno State Mental Health Strategic Framework (2018-2021) has been developed to be incorporated in the Borno State Strategic Health Development Plan II, 2017-2021.

He however told the Spanish Ambassador that fund is needed to scale up mental health activities to other areas of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe States, funding the cost of medication for indigent patients in the host communities and IDP camps.

He also said other challenges faced include provision of treatment cost for referred patients to Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Maiduguri and full scale implementation of BMHSF.

On his part, the Medical Director of the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Maiduguri, Dr. Ibrahim Wakawa, thanked the government and people of Spain for their contributions towards healthcare in Nigeria.

He commended the hospital’s unwavering commitment to the full and transparent implementation of the intervention strategies, stressing that: “We have the necessary personnel and competence to deliver culturally appropriate interventions that are compatible with evidence-based global standards.”

Responding, the Spanish Ambassador said he was impressed with what he saw, promising that he would consider other areas his home government could offer more assistance.