From February 15th to 17th 2022, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) in collaboration with Ministry of Health of the Republic of Liberia organized a regional Mental Health workshop aimed at developing a theory of change to provide strategic direction for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) integration into national emergency preparedness and response plans on the African continent. The workshop saw the participation of representatives from four countries (Sierra Leone, Cameroun, Liberia and Nigeria) selected to share experiences in integrating Mental Health into their emergency response plans.
Opening the workshop, the Minister of Health of the Republic of Liberia Hon. Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah recognized that Mental, neurological and substance use disorders are highly prevalent and burdensome on the African continent as a result of large numbers of emergencies, including conflicts and outbreaks; such as Ebola, COVID-19 and other disasters, saying “All such emergencies have a huge impact on the mental health, causing widespread of distress and impact negatively on national development”.
“The COVID-19 pandemic, Ebola epidemic and many other outbreaks have increased the mental health need of the people in Liberia. Hundreds of healthcare workers across the country were trained and equipped with skills to provide mental healthcare.” She remarked earlier. Dr Jallah added: “We are happy to collaborate with a coalition of mental health experts from the Africa CDC and other regional health organizations.”
The workshop was conducted as part of the “Strengthening Public Mental Health in Response to COVID-19 in Africa”, a collaborative project between the Africa CDC, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), World Health Organization – AFRO Region, the West Africa Health Organization (WAHO) and the Eastern African Health Community (ECSA).
Speaking on behalf of the Director of Africa CDC, Dr. Mohammed Abdulaziz, Head of Division for Disease Control and Prevention, called for sustainability of such educative international engagement to ensure an integrated mental health emergency preparedness response on the African Continent. He reaffirmed that Africa CDC will support Member States to integrate mental health into their emergency response plans. “This is one area that Africa CDC can make a significant impact, and these regional workshops will be organized in the other African Union regions” he added.
Dr Julian Eaton from LSTHM guided the session on developing the theory of change, having all participating Member states to develop action plans to address barriers and achieve comprehensive inclusion of mental health in emergency response plans. Shared lessons from COVID-19 and other emergency responses; and familiarizing the participants with the mental health minimum services package (MSP) for effective emergency response were part of the three days learning sessions. The workshop was an important step towards making mental health a priority and the essential part of the emergency response and the overall strengthening of mental health system in Africa.
About the Africa CDC: The Africa CDC mission is to strengthen Africa’s public health institution’s capacities, capabilities and partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks based on science, policy, and data-driven interventions and programmes. Learn more at: http://www.africacdc.org
About the African Union: The African Union spearheads Africa’s development and integration in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities and African citizens. AU Vision: to accelerate progress towards an integrated, prosperous and inclusive Africa, at peace with itself, playing a dynamic role in the continental and global arena, effectively driven by an accountable, efficient and responsive Commission. Learn more at: http://www.au.int/en/