Written by Naftali Mwaura
The Canadian government has announced a new $ 20 million funding to support interventions that promote mental health in developing world where the challenge is more pronounced.
In response to a growing challenge of mental illnesses in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, the Canadian government through Grand Challenges Canada, will finance fifteen innovative projects that improve mental health diagnosis and care in the global south.
Grand Challenges Canada through a statement announced that the fifteen projects were selected through a rigorous scientific review from a total of 97 proposals detailing how to increase access, improve treatment and tackle stigma among people with mental disorders in poor countries.
The World Health Organization (WHO) contends that globally, 450 million people have mental disorders and an estimated 75% of this number live in developing world.
Experts regret that 80% of people suffering from mental illnesses in the poor south have no access to proper treatment.
“Mental health disorders are a leading cause of suffering and disability everywhere, but the problem is more acute in developing world,” remarked Peter Singer, the CEO, Grand Challenges Canada.
He added,” there is very little funding for mental health innovations in low and middle income countries where mental health illness is the most neglected of many neglected diseases. It is a terrible denial of human potential”.
The Canadian government will foster innovations that improve mental care in resource constrained corners of the globe.
“Global mental health is a significant challenge which left unaddressed could undermine the health, social and economic futures of developing countries,” said Jim Flaherty, the Canadian Minister for Finance.
It is hoped that the fifteen innovative projects in fourteen poor nations will shed light on effective ways to address mental illnesses.
Countries ravaged by conflicts, poverty and natural disasters, key triggers for mental disorders, will benefit from the new funding.
According to a statement, Afghanistan, Haiti and Pakistan, epicenters of conflicts and deprivation, are targeted in the new funding to scale up interventions that address mental health of vulnerable population.
“It is estimated that 50% of Afghanis over 15 years of age are suffering from mental health problems-depression, anxiety or post traumatic stress disorder,” noted the statement.
The funding from Grand Challenges Canada will however support improved awareness of mental health problems in rural areas of Afghanistan through simple technologies such as text messages, web-based tools and teleconferencing to enable community health workers reach patients in need.
Improving care for children with autism and intellectual disability in Pakistan will be focus of the new funding while in Haiti; emphasis will be on expanding access to mental care in rural areas.
Sub-Saharan African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Liberia, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe will benefit from the Canadian grant to help implement projects that addresses mental health for women, youth and children.
Treating severe post war mental disorders in Uganda and Liberia will be prioritized in the new funding.
Grand Challenges Canada added that the grant will be channeled towards programs that address dementia in Nigeria alongside youth depression in Malawi and Zambia.
In Kenya, the Canadian grant will boost mental health care for children and help scale up screening for alcohol and substance abuse, responsible for alarming levels of mental illnesses among the youth.