Governments Urged to Increase Investment in Mental Health

By Joyce Ojanji

With an increasing number of Africans having mental health conditions, World Health Organization (WHO) has called on governments to increase investment in the sector.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa observed that  though African countries had made progress on mental health spending which had risen to almost half a dollar per person, it  is still below the recommended $2 per person, with mental health not featuring in national health insurance schemes.

Moreover, Dr. Moeti noted that inadequate financing for mental health is the biggest limitation impacting efforts to expand Africa’s mental health workforce.

“As things stand, there are fewer than two mental health workers for every 100,000 people, the majority of whom are psychiatric nurses and mental health nursing aids. With these scarce resources concentrated at large psychiatric institutions in urban areas, people at community and primary care levels are left critically underserved,’’ she said.

To address the challenge therefore, Dr. Moeti urged Member States to follow through on the implementation of commitments they made at the Regional Committee in August 2022, when they endorsed the Framework to Implement the Comprehensive Global Action Plan 2013 to 2023 in the WHO African region. The document highlights the severe shortage of mental health services on the continent, and makes recommendations for key actions by Member States.

To advance continental efforts towards equitable access to mental, neurological and substance abuse care, she called on Member States to prioritize the implementation of the Framework to Implement the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan in the WHO African Region which requires increasing government expenditure on relevant services, and mobilizing resources from partners among others.

Dr. Moeti also noted that countries particularly need to strengthen the mental health and psychosocial response in humanitarian emergencies, including COVID-19 and Ebola, which have a significant negative impact on school-age children and health care workers. Countries especially need to strengthen the mental health and psychosocial response. “Mental health and psychosocial support are integral to any successful response,” she said.

She was speaking during the commemoration of the 2022 World Mental Health day which is celebrated on 10th October every year. This year’s theme was Make mental health and wellbeing for all a global priority.

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