Mental illness worsens in Malawi due to drug and alcohol abuse among youth

Ombudsman Martha Chizuma Mwangonde has made a frantic plea to National Assembly to increase a budget to mental health department from the current one per cent to five per cent of the health national budget, saying the mental health situation is pathetic and critical.

Zomba Mental Hospital

Mwangonde made the plea to  Parliamentary Committee on Health  which summoned her on the issue.

The committee interacted with the Ombudsman following visits to two mental health institutions—Zomba and St John of God Hospitaller in Lilongwe.

The Ombudsman noted that mental health problems are on the rise because of drug and alcohol abuse.

“We can deal with the problem only if the budget for mental health services department is raised to five per cent,” she said.

But Principal Secretary for Health Dan Namarika, who also appeared before the same committee, said the raising of the budget for the mental health department was not feasible.

“What we should be talking is how much investment should be put in mental health department but we cannot be talking of raising budgets for each disease, that is not possible,” he said.

Namarika admitted that the health sector had not prioritised mental health, but said there was room to improve.

Health committee chair Juliana Lunguzi said the most important and logic way to deal with the issue is to fight drug and alcohol abuse.

“We don’t even need to increase the budget for mental health. We just need to control drug and alcohol abuse, especially alcohol abuse,” she said.

Lunguzi said their visit to Zomba Mental Hospital and St John of God indicated that mental illnesses were being neglected, going by the low budget and shortage of personnel.

“The budget of mental health is the lowest and procurement services don’t seem to favour specialised drugs like those required for mental health patients,” Lunguzi  said.

Police on Thursday arrested three Nigerians in Blantyre and Lilongwe believed to be drug king pins in the country.

In May this year, Malawians woke up to the sad news of the death of 26-year-old Riyadh Randera in Brazil apparently after some of the drugs-filled condoms he had swallowed, to evade detection by international law-enforcers, burst.

It is alleged that the deceased, who reportedly made the trip without the knowledge of his parents, swallowed cocaine-filled condoms to evade detection of the drugs by security elements. But the gamble backfired when, reportedly, some of the condoms in him burst.

Nigerian national Alex Ojukwu, who is nicknamed Old Man and who confessed to having bought Riyadh an air ticket for the trip, ostensibly for a holiday, was arrested by the police over the matter, and up to date 16 more people have been arrested in connection with drug trade.

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