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Mental Health Experts in Nakivale Refugee Settlement Struggle with Limited Resources



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Mental health professionals in Nakivale refugee settlement, Isingiro district, express concerns over their capacity to provide psychosocial support due to space and personnel shortages. The limitations hinder private counseling and mental health services for both refugees and host communities.

Elias Manirakiza, Regional Coordinator of the Transcultural Psychosocial Organisation, highlights challenges in delivering psychosocial support, citing a shortage of personnel. The organization, serving over 140,000 individuals, has only ten staff members, including seven social workers, two clinical psychologists, and one psychiatrist.

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Cecilia Kambabazi, Assistant Community Services Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, acknowledges the lack of safe spaces for mental health treatment, with services conducted in health centers and people’s homes. She notes a general lack of awareness about mental health issues, posing challenges for health experts and social workers.

Despite obstacles, there have been successes over the last two years, with a decrease in suicide cases from over 30 to 14 individuals by August this year. Elias Manirakiza notes that 93% of these cases were men, emphasizing the stigma surrounding men’s mental health.

Daniel Wabigya, a psychiatric clinical officer from TPO Uganda, highlights the lack of awareness about mental health in the region, leading to misattributions of cases to witchcraft. He emphasizes untreated mental health issues in children aged 3 to 15, a consequence of trauma from wars and domestic violence in their home countries.

Nakivale refugee settlement, hosting 180,000 individuals from 11 nationalities, grapples with significant challenges in addressing the diverse mental health needs of its population.

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