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WHO commits to improving mental health services in Malawi

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This photo taken on May 21, 2023 shows the logo of the World Health Organization (WHO) with the WHO headquarters in the background in Geneva, Switzerland. (Xinhua/Lian Yi)
World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) in Malawi on Tuesday joined the nation in commemorating World Mental Health Day, with a pledge to enhance the quality of health care services, particularly mental health services, in Malawi.

WHO country representative in Malawi Neema Kimambo said her organization would collaborate with its partners to ensure the valuation, promotion, and safeguarding of mental health in the country.

“Mental health is an inherent human right for all individuals, regardless of their identity or location,” she said. “Everyone possesses the right to the highest achievable standard of mental health. This encompasses the right to be shielded from mental health hazards, the right to accessible, acceptable, and quality care, and the right to freedom, autonomy, and inclusion within the community.”

Kimambo, however, said that individuals with mental health conditions worldwide continue to endure various violations of their human rights, such as exclusion from community life, subjection to discrimination, and lack of access to the necessary mental health care.

According to the WHO, in 2022, more than 116 million people were estimated to be living with mental health conditions across Africa, and only few in the region have access to quality mental health care.

In Malawi, many people with mental health conditions lack access to care due to such factors as centralized mental health services that are not integrated into primary healthcare and a scarcity of mental health professionals.

Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda called for collective efforts to reduce new cases of mental illness and better management of existing ones.

“Stigma and discrimination are the predominant challenges confronting individuals living with mental illnesses,” she said. “These injustices continue to impede social inclusion and access to proper care, subjecting people with mental illnesses to stigma, in addition to the challenges posed by the illnesses themselves.”

World Mental Health Day serves as an international platform for global mental health education, awareness, and advocacy against social stigma. It was first commemorated in 1992 under the auspices of the World Federation for Mental Health.

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