Sierra Leone Specialist Psychiatrist Speaks of Importance of World Mental Day, Calls for More Investment in Mental Healthcare
Sierra Leone Specialist Psychiatrist and Psychiatrist in Charge/Hospital Care Manager at the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Hospital, Dr Abdul Jalloh, has on Wednesday 7 October 2020, during an exclusive interview with this writer spoke about the importance of World Mental Health Day, and further emphasized on the need for more investment into mental healthcare issues in Sierra Leone.
Mental Health Day is celebrated every year since 1992 on 10 Octoberglobally. This year 2020, the celebration is taking place under its distinguished theme: “Mental Health for All: Greater Investment – Greater Access.”
Speaking on the relevance of the theme in line with happenings in Sierra Leone, Dr Jalloh first recalled that on Thursday 4 June 2020, His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio at the commissioning of the renovated Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital Complex had committed that mental health intervention is within his government’s overarching “human capital development priority.”
In the words of the President, it was stated that “our country has been bludgeoned over the last three decades by traumatic event after traumatic event – from the bloody violence and chaos of the civil war, to catastrophic natural disasters like the mudslide and flooding, through the Ebola virus disease epidemic, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.”Hence, President Bio is quoted to have said “we recognize that as a nation, we must act now. We must invest heavily in mental healthcare.”
During the interview, Dr Jalloh said previously there was complete neglect in the investment on mental healthcare not only in Sierra Leone but also globally. He said so far, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, has over the past two (2) years with support from Partners In Health (PIH) made significant progress in face-lifting the Psychiatric Hospital in the country. He said the Sierra Leone Psychiatric Teaching Hospital had undergone a lot of infrastructural development such as improved toilet system, renovated wards with new beds and mattresses. He further mentioned the current upgradedlighting system, fans for ventilation and plasma televisions installed in their various buildings. He confirmed that they also now have a modernized lecture hall with a semi conference room and a library together with other improvements like a completed Laboratory building, Recreational Centre (Occupational Therapy Unit) equipped with sewing machines, musical instruments, and various indoor games, and a basketball and hand tennis courts for staff and patients.
However, whilst dilating on the need for more investment on mental healthcare in Sierra Leone, Dr Abdul Jalloh said before now, investment in health care was minimal. He further stated that, after the visit of His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio, there is a thirty-five (35%) increase in patients flow to the hospital.
Also, Dr Jalloh Spoke about COVID 19 pandemic effects on Sierra Leone mental healthcare. He said “in the event of an infectious disease outbreak, such as Coronavirus, everyone reacts differently to such stressful situations,” adding that “the kernels of misinformation during an outbreak made people feed on uncertainty, grow in doubt and then reactsin the form of individual or mass panic especially during measures to limit and control the spread of the disease.”
Dr Jalloh furthered that social distancing, quarantine and isolation are measures used by the government to limit the potential of this highly contagious disease to spread but also the health issues relating to frontline workers must be in thorough consideration.
Sierra Leone Specialist Psychiatrist spoke about the importance of World Mental Health Day. He said the general aims of the day since 1992 were to promote mental health advocacy and to educate the public on relevant mental healthcare issues. He added that as the World Mental Health Day is celebrated globally on the 10 October; he is calling for the urgent redress and greater investment in mental health – a call which can no longer be ignored.
Dr Jalloh concluded Sierra Leone would have had a very big celebration to mark the 200th years Anniversary of the Psychiatric Hospital in the country. However, due to the current COVID19 pandemic, that could not hold. Notwithstanding, he is calling on Sierra Leoneans to record a one (1) minute video of themselves or in a group in a physical exercise with a complementary message of calling for greater investment in Sierra Leone mental healthcare and post to various social media platform. This will serve as a way of commemorating the World Mental Health Day in the country.
Meanwhile, on her remarks before the celebration of World Mental Health Day, Dr Ingrid Daniels, President of WFMH says that “now more than ever greater investment in mental health is needed to ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to mental health care. The under-investment in mental health has left large treatment gaps globally,” concluding that the “World Mental Health Day is simply not a one-day event and provides us with the opportunity and advantage to hold the attention of governments, donors, policy-makers and all stakeholders to ensure action for greater investment in mental health. Let us hold hands and unify our voices in moving the mental health investment agenda for increased focus and access to mental health and thereby making mental health a reality for all – everyone, everywhere.”
In a recent development, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador to the United States of America, His Excellency Sidique Abou-Bakarr Wai organised a team of experts to commence feasibility study of First Lady’s Medical Centre in Sierra Leone.
Freetown: 25 June 2019 - The Government of Japan has approved a supplementary budget of US$1.5million to improve the coverage of critical Severe and Acute Malnutrition treatment services and thereby reduce child mortality in Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors (SLAES) leadership has on Thursday 20th June 2019, ended a 3 days training on Paramedics and Leadership at their headquarters in Jui Junction, Freetown through funding from Project 1808 and other partners.
The Head of the National Safe Blood Services in the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Prof. Sahr Moses Gevao has said that Sierra Leone Needs 70, 000 Units of SAFEBLOOD per year to address the country’s national need of safe blood to save the lives of people who are most in dare need of blood, especially pregnant women and children.
The district Council Chairman for Bonthe District, Moses Probyn has urged residents and stakeholders of his districts to not only support but to also own the Measles Rubella Vaccination Campaign, as it is geared to the health of their children; thereby saving lives.
Chairman Probyn made the plea at the District Launch of the Integrated Measles Rubella Vaccination Campaign on Monday 10th June at the Bonthe District Council Hall Mattru Jong.
While making his statement at the launch, Mr. Probyn reiterated that if their district was to actualize their target of reaching every children with the lifesaving interventions in the district, adding that the Ministry of Health and Sanitation would not succeed without their support for which he called on all stakeholders to fully support the campaign for the district to emerge as the best district in the entire campaign.
He further noted that the campaign is not only about the usual Measles, Polio, Vitamin A &Albendazole but it is also about a new disease known as Rubella for which their children were going to be vaccinated against.
He continued that if all their children were to be reached it counts on all their efforts and support, as 1 case of Measles or Rubella is a concern thus puts other children at high risk of contracting the diseases as it is caused by sneeze or cough in the air by an affected person.
He admonished stakeholders no to associate the campaign to any rumours, misconceptions that would otherwise hamper the success of the campaign and that they were now in the correct position to address issues of rumours, misconceptions and myths in their communities.
Mr. Probyn ended by thanking the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and Government and health partners for their efforts in ensuring that their children are prevented against these childhood diseases, which would otherwise claim their lives if they are not prevented
Every day, there are more than 1 million new cases of curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among people aged 15-49 years, according to data released on Thursday 6th June 2019, by the World Health Organization (WHO). This amounts to more than 376 million new cases annually of four infections - chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis.
Pneumonia is on course to kill nearly 11 million children by 2030, new analysis conducted by Johns Hopkins University and Save the Children reveals.
The in-depth modelling, released on World Pneumonia Day, also shows that more than four million of these deaths – more than a third – could be easily averted with concerted action to improve rates of vaccination, treatment and nutrition.
Without action, the aid organisation’s forecasts show Nigeria, India, Pakistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are likely to bear the highest burden of deaths.
Pneumonia mostly affects the elderly, but the disease is the biggest infectious killer for children globally, killing more than malaria, diarrhoea and measles combined.
880,000 children, mostly under the age of two, died from the disease in 2016, the most recent year for which full data is available.
SCI CEO, Helle Thorning-Schmidt said:
“It should shame us that almost a million children are dying every year from a disease that we have the knowledge and resources to defeat. There is a vaccine available, and a course of antibiotics costs just £0.30.”
The agency’s forecasts are based on a model developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University called the Lives Saved Tool (LiST).
They show nearly 11 million (10,865,728) children will die by 2030 on current trends, with the highest burden of deaths in Nigeria (1,730,000), India (1,710,000), Pakistan (706,000), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (635,000).
However, scaling up vaccination coverage to 90 per cent of children under the age of five could save 610,000 lives; providing cheap antibiotics could save 1.9 million; and ensuring children have good nutrition could save 2.5 million.
If all three overlapping interventions were carried out by 2030, the model suggests a total of 4.1 million deaths could be averted.
2030 is the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include an ambitious global pledge to “end preventable child deaths” and achieve Universal Health Coverage.
To end preventable child deaths from diseases like pneumonia, Save the Children wants to see:
- The prices of major pneumonia vaccines dramatically lowered to allow more than 76 million infants to be immunised
- Governments of low-and middle-income countries prioritising building strong health and nutrition systems that reach the most marginalised
- Donor governments support countries to achieve Universal Health Coverage.
Dr Ellie Cannon, a General Practitioner with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), visited Save the Children’s health programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where 50,000 children died from pneumonia in 2016.
Dr. Cannon said:
“It was shocking to see children dying from a disease we can treat so easily in the UK. Children are arriving on the brink of starvation, their immune systems weakened by malnutrition. And even when they get to medical help, doctors simply don’t have the basic supplies like oxygen and antibiotics to treat them. These are medics with the same training as me. I could write a simple prescription or arrange a quick X Ray. My medical colleagues in the DRC are forced to watch children die.”
People’s needs in Central African Republic (CAR) have increased significantly in recent months, the top United Nations aid official in the country warned on Wednesday, amid worsening localized violence that has included the recent torching of two camps for displaced people.
Speaking to journalists in Geneva, UN Humanitarian Coordinator Najat Rochdi urged the international community to help CAR, explaining that 2.9 million people in need of assistance and protection out of a total population of some 4.6 million “is a big deal”.
Next year, she said, 63 per cent of people there are likely to require urgent humanitarian assistance, up from 46 per cent in May.
In the past three weeks alone, more than 50,000 people have been affected in Batafango town in Ouham prefecture, and in Alindao town in Basse Kotto prefecture, where assailants burned down two main sites for displaced people – a tactic never before seen in CAR.
“The world cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening in the CAR. We are back to square one!” she said.
“Everything was burned and (there is) a level of despair which is really heartbreaking,” Ms. Rochdi said. “I went there, and I met with them and there is one thing they told me, all of them, is that they will never go back to the site. And therefore, it is really a lot of challenges for us when it comes to protection, but also when it comes to making sure they have a minimum living standard where they are.”
Fighting between the mostly Christian anti-Balaka militia and the mainly Muslim Séléka rebel coalition plunged CAR into civil conflict in 2012.A peace agreement was reached in January 2013, but rebels seized the capital, Bangui, two months later, forcing President François Bozizé to flee.
Concerned with the security, humanitarian, human rights and political crisis in the CAR and its regional implications, the Security Council authorized the deployment of a UN stabilization mission, known by its French acronym, MINUSCA, in 2014, with the protection of civilians as its utmost priority.
While Ms. Rochdi acknowledged that the UN had taken on many functions of Government because of the crisis, she noted that in 2019, humanitarian priorities were likely to focus more on providing lifesaving help quickly via regional hubs and seeking to engage more with affected communities.
“It is a conversation that has started,” she said, adding that the fact that this year’s $516 million CAR appeal was only 50 per cent funded meant that “realistic” decisions had to be taken about which communities to help.
And highlighting the scattered nature of the violence in CAR – a country of huge natural wealth in the form of diamonds, gold and uranium – the UN official noted that there was good news in some areas, not least the spontaneous return of displaced people in the south-west.