WHO Dig holes into Kenya’s mental health care


Despite existence of a social health insurer, the global health agency is alarmed that many mentally ill patients in Kenya pay for services and drugs from their own pockets. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also noted that Kenya is yet to create an independent agency to oversee how doctors and other medics handle mentally ill patients. This is in light of the fact that these patients at times, due to the nature of their illnesses, are mistreated in the course of their treatment, which WHO says is a violation of human rights. In its latest update on countries’ capacity to handle cases of mental illness, WHO said the only health legislation existing in the country is the one enacted in 1989 – which works as a standalone. However, as per the WHO standards, countries should have at least a body or an authority that looks into cases of human rights violations and mental illnesses. “A dedicated authority or independent body to assess compliance of mental health legislation with international human rights-does not exist,” reads the January 21, 2019 update.

It was noted that Kenya has a standalone policy for mental health that came into force in 2015 and a plan that contains specified indicators or targets against which its implementation can be monitored.

However, the policy plan was rated at a score of one (five being the highest) for being in line with human rights covenant. The country also has no policy plan or strategy specifically for children or adolescent on mental health issues.

According to the WHO update, which used 2017 numbers, at least one in every 40 Kenyans (2,467 in every 100,000 people) has a mental related illness that has forced them to change their lifestyle. Suicide rate was at least three in every 100,000 Kenyans.

WHO observed that the care and treatment of persons with major mental disorders (psychosis, bipolar, depression) was included in national health insurance or reimbursement schemes in the country, in this case the National Hospital Insurance Fund. “Persons pay mostly or entirely out of pocket for services and medicines,” WHO noted.

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