Michael Olugbode in Maiduguri
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and governments of Nigeria and Spain have collaborated towards bringing treatment to persons with mental illness in the troubled Northeast.
A recent report by 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 Northeastern part of 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 last Tuesday at the hosting of the Spanish Ambassador to Nigeria, Cabanas Marcelino, who was at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital in 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 Northeast, 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 in Maiduguri, Borno State, is the only specialised mental healthcare hospital in Northeast region.”
Bala lamented that only 18 percent of the fully or partially functioning health centres in the state can provide survivors of violence with integrated clinical management services.
He, through the WHO mental health Gap Action Programme (mhGAP) and10 mental health specialists, have been engaged and trained with each conducting 10 outreach visits monthly to three to five health facilities in the state in addition to the introduction of mental healthcare services at the primary healthcare facilities and outreach sessions across the state.
Bala 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 and referred over 1,500 patients to the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital Maiduguri for further management and care.
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.
On his part, the Medical Director of Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Maiduguri, Dr. Ibrahim Wakawa, thanked the government and people of Spain for their contributions toward healthcare in Nigeria.
Responding, the Spanish ambassador said he was impressed with what he saw, promising that he would consider other areas his government could offer more assistance.