Andiamo Trust asks Malawi govt to act on discrimination against mentally challenged

Andiamo Youth Cooperative Trust (AYCT) Coordinator Patrick Bwanali has condemned the behavior of some Malawians who continues to discriminate people who are mentally challenged or were once mentally affected.

Precious and his mother sleeping along the raIilway line … ine. Photo Patrick Bwanali Andiamo Trust
Bwanali the good Samaritan

Bwanali told Nyasa Times in an interview:  “I think the government through social welfare offices and the rest of us Malawians are not doing enough to save mentally challenged people
who move around the towns and cities.

“As a community, we must make sure that everyone of us is living a dignified life. Let us for once feel that we are the government ourselves.”

Bwanali brought to limelight the issue of a little boy called Precious Kamchere from Chimtendere Village in Khwisa Northern part of Balaka to trace the village of the little boy to seek permission to pick the boy to Andiamo Trust where the boy currently stays and goes to school.

A cousin to Precious, 33 year old Jenipher Kawala also admitted in an interview with Nyasa Times that mentally challenged patients face stigma and discrimination.

According to Kawala, the mother of Precious who has three children was born a normal person suffered the mental illness after giving birth to her first child but was given little attention when taken to Balaka District Hospital.

Since then, she has been moving and spending nights on the roads of Balaka.

“When we went to the hospital explaining her problem they just gave us pills and being someone who just moving around town, it was difficult for us to monitor if she was taking the drugs. Now that others have jumped in, we are hopeful and we believe that our sister will now be fine we appeal to the government and all Malawians to stop the tendency of stigma and discrimination against mentally challenged,” said Kawala.

About two years ago, James Bunyenga aged 56 who spent about five years at Zomba Mental also narrated his ordeal.

“After I was discharged from the hospital the first time, people still treated me like I was ill. My relatives were caring, but other people in the community treated me differently,” Bunyenga said.

Head of mental health department at the College of Medicine in Blantyre, Jennifer Ahrens, agrees that there is indeed a stigma surrounding mentally challenged person.

“Most people do not know how to treat mentally challenged patients that have recovered. Research shows that most of these people are sidelined in development activities,” Ahrens says.

An expert and Director of Zomba Mental Hospital McEvance Phiri says mentally-challenged people become absent-minded when they are critically ill hence the need to give them fair treatment until they fully recover.

Zomba Mental Hospital remains the main referral hospital for mental illnesses in Malawi.

This is why government needs to consider the welfare of mentally ill patients, especially those roaming the country’s streets.

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