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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Sierra Leone’s Plan to Heal From Decades of Trauma

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Parisa Qurban BBC Africa Daily podcast

Sierra Leone’s Vice-President Juldeh Jalloh has told the BBC his country intends to tackle mental health, a big issue in a country that has experienced several traumatic events in its recent history.

He is leading a mental health taskforce that wants to help people scarred by civil war, high unemployment and poverty.

“If you have mental health as a big challenge, it’s going to affect the young population. It’s also going to affect family members,” he said.

During the conflict of the 1990s, child soldiers roamed the streets mutilating and killing their victims. This was followed by years of economic turmoil. In 2014, an outbreak of the Ebola virus left almost 4,000 people dead.

Sierra Leone’s government is currently updating the 1903 Lunacy Act, so that it includes modern, up-to-date mental health legislation.

The country has a population of around seven million people but has only ever had one hospital that offered mental health services – it is located in the country’s capital, Freetown.

Only 20 nurses in the country are trained to deal with mental health. There are two psychiatrists and one psychiatric doctor.

Talking about the government’s plan to make mental health services available more people, Mr Jalloh said: “We are going to engage on a nationwide awareness campaign. We want to increase awareness. We want to increase access.”

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