11 October 2017

Burundi: People With Mental Problems to Be Understood in Burundi

While the world celebrates the Mental Health day on 11 October each year, people suffering from mental disorder and delay in mental development in Burundi are still discriminated.

Either adults affected by mental disorders or kids that have a mental retardation still have problems in society because they are misunderstood what leads them to being discriminated.

In a centre known as "Akamuri" in Bujumbura city centre, different children can be seen. The latter are affected by a delay in mental development and are referred to as "abakehabwenge" in local language.

Marcel Ndoricimpa, who is in charge of the physiotherapy department in Akamuri, says the centre receives more than 1450 children affected by mental retardation and physical deformity.

He highlights the fact that children are discriminated in their society which also affects their autonomy. "They suffer from mental retardation but they are like other children with the same rights.

The big challenge is that those children are discriminated by their family members", says Ndoricimpa.

He deplores the fact that those children are even deprived of their fundamental rights. Ndoricimpa says they had to be helped from their early age so as to develop their independence in adulthood. "If helped since early age, those kids can be independent in their adulthood. It is true that their intellectual consciousness does not develop but they learn by imitation and can be autonomous if helped with appropriate material and programs".

As for Joseph Gahungu, charged with administration at the Neuropsychiatric Center of Kamenge, the mental disorder is a reality to be understood by Burundians. "They should rather be taken care of than being discriminated because mental disorder is an illness like others," he says.

Gahungu adds that mental disorder is curable. He appeals to people not to consider mental disorder as witchcraft: "There are people who still don't believe mental disorder exists. Instead of bringing their patients to the hospital, they go to consult witch doctors"

Ndoricimpa Marcel also said persons with mental health problems still meet challenges in professional area.

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