Scaling up the national response for mental health in Zimbabwe

The mental health investment case for Zimbabwe was launched alongside the Special Initiative for Mental Health by the Vice President and Minister of Health and Child Care, Hon. Gen. (Rtd) Dr. Constantine N. Chiwenga on the 21st of July 2021.

 

This three-day multistakeholder event was hosted by the Ministry of Health and Child Care in partnership with WHO and UN country teams. Over 200 experts from the Government, academia, UNFPA, and civil societies such as Friendship Bench, ZIMNAMH, REPSSI, CHAI and OPHID joined to discuss opportunities and challenges in scaling up an effective response to improving mental health in the country.

There is a huge gap between the need and availability of mental health services across the world and Zimbabwe is no exception. The Vice President of Zimbabwe, Hon. Gen. (Retd) Dr. Chiwenga stressed that “providing mental health services is essential to upholding human rights and scaling up cost effective action is a priority for Zimbabwe”. Zimbabwe launched the Mental Health Strategic Plan in 2019, in 2020 the Zimbabwe Special Initiative for Mental Health Strategic Framework was developed and launched on 21st July 2021. The Mental Health investment case, also launched on July 21st 2021, is a key component of the Zimbabwe Special Initiative for Mental Health Strategic Framework. The Mental Health Investment Case will provide a mental health situation analysis, an institutional context analysis and an economic analysis. Together the three will be used to determine priorities and returns on investment in mental health, providing projections for 3, 5, and 10 year time frames. The Mental Health Investment case can be  used to help mobilise funding and investment. The forum agreed that it is critical that sectors beyond health are engaged, particularly, social welfare, education, as well as civil society organizations and the private sector.

As the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide, the UN Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe, Dr. Maria Ribeiro emphasized in her speech that “many people with mental health issues are suffering in silence”.

The investment case, which is being funded by the Russian Federation, is critical to generating greater action. As stated by H.E. Yuri Yuzsaninov, Deputy Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Zimbabwe in his speech at the event: “That makes this investment case even more timely and important.”.

The investment case, under the Task Force’s WHO-UNDP flagship programme, has begun to identify opportunities through interviews, to strengthen the national mental health system. These include partnering with people with lived experience to strengthen awareness raising and advocacy efforts and developing effective community-level interventions through civil societies such as Friendship Bench, ZIMNAMH, and Zvandiri, among others.

The development of this investment case will be an effective tool for Zimbabwe’s mental health response. Over the coming months, the team will focus on the identification of priorities in tackling mental health issues and what investments will generate the best returns in prevention of these illnesses.

The findings will be part of a report that the investment case team is putting together, which will also describe the economic and broader societal costs of mental ill health to Zimbabwe, as well as the return on investment from scaling up action. This is hoped to not only provide projections for potential return on investment, but also reduce social inequalities, protect human rights and improve economic efficiency to mental health services in Zimbabwe.

SOURCE: WHO

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