On Dakar's sunny avenues, troubled souls wander aimlessly alongside busy traffic, often muttering to themselves, sometimes begging, as the rest of the city ignores them.

Clad in electric-blue woolly hat and traditional white robes, looking deep in thought, a man walks around in circles across the Senegalese capital's main square, day in, day out.

By the end of the afternoon, his sporadic, piercing howls have silenced the calls of street vendors offering residents newspapers, fake designer sunglasses and alarm clocks. Passers-by have stopped paying attention.

There are "no official numbers"of abandoned, mentally ill Senegalese roaming the street, Papa Mamadou Diagne, a sociologist who wrote an academic paper on the issue told AFP.

But, he wrote, "the number of mentally-ill people on the streets of Dakar is on the rise."

"Every morning they meet up, go through bins for food and then scatter across the capital, alone. For those who have a family, the lack of money is the main reason why the ill person is left on the street."

There are only five settings in the country to address mental health problems, including two large psychiatric unit in Dakar. In a country of 14  million, there are only 30 or so psychiatrists, says an expert.

Across the African continent, mental health issues mostly go untreated, experts say.

Researchers in South Africa found three-quarters of mentally-ill people there failed to get help. In separate studies in Ethiopia and Nigeria, the figures rose to  90 percent.

Senegal is one the region's economic heavyweights and a hub for foreign investment and tourism. Yet a booming economy has not resulted in rising investment in mental health, as resources are inevitably concentrated on physical diseases such as malaria and HIV.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!