In the surroundings of Bouaké, the second largest city in Côte d’Ivoire, we support the SAMENTACOM (https://samentacom-ci.org) project, in collaboration with the local university and the National Program for Psychiatry. It is led by a dedicated psychiatry professor, Prof. Koua, and aims to establish a care network for people with mental and epileptic illnesses and psychosocial disabilities in the surrounding rural regions. Central to the concept is the outpatient psychiatric work in cooperation with the existing health stations, which are at the forefront but are not yet equipped for the treatment of this patient group. For this reason, nurses and other helpers are trained in the rural health stations and trained to diagnose and treat these diseases.
Staff of the health posts, which mediate contact between the health centers and the villages (Agents de Santé), but have only little training themselves, are to be trained to visit people with mental illnesses and epilepsy in the villages, offer them treatment and continue to accompany them. In addition, the information and counselling of relatives and village communities is important in order to enable a different view of these diseases and to promote the integration of the patients into their familiar social environment. Self-help groups are also initiated and supported within the framework of this project. In this way, 1000 patients are to receive outpatient help by the end of 2019.
The SAMENTACOM project is to be gradually extended to the entire Ivory Coast, which will certainly take many years. Regular contacts are therefore maintained with the local and regional health authorities and the national health ministry, which will also be kept informed of the progress of the project. On the one hand, we would like to show that psychiatric help is also possible with limited resources. On the other hand, we would like to try to draw the attention of the Ivorian state to its responsibility for mental health and the observance of human rights.
In preparation for this project, MCF members were already in Bouaké and the surrounding rural areas in 2018, where they saw the plight of the sick, isolated in the village communities and often living outside in so-called Camps de Prière (CdP)-prayer camps. The prayer camps are villages with religious offerings, which usually accept mentally and epileptically ill people for payment, mostly for long periods of time, even against their will concerned at the request of their relatives. Mental illnesses and epilepsy are here interpreted religiously as obsession by evil spirits, and so the treatment consists of prayers and sometimes also of torture to which the sick are subjected in order to drive the evil spirits out of them. To force the patients not to run away or cause damage they are often chained to trees in the open air, in many cases for years. The path of the patients usually leads via healers who practice traditional medicine to the prayer camps, which are mostly evangelically oriented, with traditional religious elements playing a more or less important role. In view of the helplessness of many relatives in dealing with mental illnesses, the accommodation of the sick in prayer camps often seems to them to be the only possible solution. The Camps de Prière are therefore of central importance, and the development of constructive cooperation with them is an opportunity for the development of psychiatric care in West Africa. We are convinced that the superstition and exclusion of the mentally ill will diminish as good help becomes visible and tangible.
A pilot study covered a total of 71 Camps de Prière in the Bouaké area, 40 of which were studied. This was documented. In a further step, all Camps de Prière in Côte d’Ivoire will be recorded and selectively investigated.
The project is working with the national pharmaceutical authority to develop the supply of medicine to the centers.
In the meantime, we have visited the project again (see travel report). SAMENTACOM has been in operation for a year now, the staff is committed and the first positive experiences and results are available. For the current state of affairs (April 2019) and further plans, please also read the travel report on this homepage.
All over West Africa (and not only there) psychologically ill people are excluded and locked away. This also is happening daily in Burkina Faso. The pastor and musician Tankpari Guitanga has watched the misery for a long time and then decided to help himself. In May 2015, he founded the aid organization Yenfaabima e.V., and began his work in a small rented house in the community of Piéla in the east of Burkina Faso.
Initially, 40 people came for monthly psychiatric consultations, but the centers‘ offer is spreading quickly and was broadcasted on the radio. There are several hundred mentally ill people who often find their way to Piéla from afar every month and are treated there. The nurses who treated the mentally ill, who held the monthly consultation hours lasting several days, have so far travelled from the capital Ouagadougou and from Ouahiguya, 360 kilometers away. With our financial support, one of the nurses — Timothée Tindano — was offered the opportunity to work directly in Piela, so that he no longer has to travel hundreds of kilometers. He has gladly accepted this offer and will use part of his work to contact the surrounding health centers and train the local nurses and agents de Santé. He is also supposed to inform the local authorities about the situation of mentally ill people, visit Camps de Prière and motivate them to cooperate.