Zimbabwe’s commitment to upgrading mental health care as part of its programme of achieving health Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been recognised by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.
UN resident coordinator for Zimbabwe Ms Maria Ribeiro praised Zimbabwe’s systems in response to the launch by Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care Dr Constantino Chiwenga of the special initiative for mental health and the Zimbabwe mental health investment case.
“The initiative was aimed at achieving universal health coverage for mental health, advancing mental health policies, advocacy and human rights, and scaling up quality mental health interventions and services is yet another demonstration of the strong commitment in Zimbabwe to achieving the SDGs targets,” said Ms Ribeiro.
“The commitment to achieving health SDGs is clearly demonstrated by the inclusion of health well being as one of the pathways to Zimbabwe’s Vision 2030 and the National Development Strategy 1. The NDS1 articulates very clearly the strategies and targets to achieve all health SDGs,” she said.
World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative Dr Alex Gasasira said WHO was inspired by Zimbabwe’s declaration that it is a champion for Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and noting that mental health conditions constitute a significant proportion of the increasing burden of NCDs in Zimbabwe.
“I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Honourable Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care as well as the entire Ministry of Health and Child Care leadership for their continued very strong commitment to NCDs and mental health,” he said.
Minister-Counsellor, deputy head of Russian Mission in Zimbabwe Mr Yury Yuzhaninov, who represented the Russian Ambassador Nikolai Krasilnikov, talked of Russian’s commitment to the programme.
“It is our aim to ensure universal health access to quality, complete and timely preventative medical care. The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted critical mental health services,” said Minister-Counsellor Yuzhaninov.
“I would like to emphasise that the Russian federation will continue to support and assist the Government of Zimbabwe in achieving its national goals related to public health including the development of tools to protect and improve mental health.”
VP Chiwenga said the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the mental health situation as well as the aftermath of the Cyclone Idai storm which killed people and destroyed infrastructure leading to displacements of several people.
To address the situation, the Government has embarked on an ongoing massive successful vaccination campaign and the restoration of livelihoods through the construction of infrastructure destroyed by the Cyclone Idai, VP Chiwenga also bemoaned drug abuse especially by youths.
“Consequently social isolation, fear of contracting the virus, fear of death, loss of livelihoods among other things have been associated with an increase and worsening of mental health disorders.”
“The repercussions of Cyclone Idai are still having a significant impact on Zimbabwe. The negative mental health effects of Cyclone Idai are still with us.
“Excessive grief, depression and anxiety were among the most frequently reported mental health problems in the cyclone’s aftermath.
“Drug abuse among the youths is an issue that needs to be addressed seriously,” said VP Chiwenga.
He also spoke about the newly-launched mental health investment case.
“I am aware that the overarching goal of the special initiative for mental health is to improve policy, advocacy, financing, and the upholding of human rights, as well as scale up evidence-based interventions and services for persons living with mental health disorders,” said VP Chiwenga.
He said the mental health investment case involves an assessment of the current national mental health system which enables the identification of mechanisms for scaling-up mental health promotion, prevention, and care.
“Emphasis is placed on the role of non-health sectors in contributing to the mental health agenda throughout the process,” said VP Chiwenga.
Establishment of treatment packages for substance use disorders and child psychiatry disorders, decentralisation of services, and improved access to mental health facilities, among other concerns, will be prioritised, said VP Chiwenga.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Jasper Chimedza said the VP had always prioritised addressing mental health issues even during his days with the defence forces.
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