For the past four years, Bread and Water for Africa UK has been a proud partner of the Kamili Organisation in Kenya. Kamili is a community-based organisation with three mental health clinics in Nairobi, mental health awareness outreach programmes, and a scholarship and practical training offering for recent qualified general health nurses to become specialised in mental health treatment.

To understand Kamili’s mission, it’s important to understand why Kenya needs community-based groups like Kamili. And the reason is that Kenya’s mental health system is woefully under-funded. Of the modest annual health budget, only 0.5% is allocated to mental health provisions – with a priority on psychiatric hospital treatment for serious cases rather than prevention or early intervention. To put this into further perspective, the UK spends 12% of a much larger national health budget on mental health.

Not only is mental health underfunded, but it is concentrated in the capital of Nairobi. 70% of all in-patient beds are located in the city of Nairobi, leaving the rest of the country with extremely limited access to any psychiatric or in-patient services, much less long-term treatment options.

Mental health is not only important in its own right as an issue for Kenya, but it is inextricably linked to the country’s health, education, and social development goals. According to an audit of the Kenyan Mental Health System conducted by the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, “mental (illness) impedes the achievement of other health and development outcomes and contributes to poverty and vulnerability; placing colossal economic and social burdens on an individual, their family, the community and society at large.”

Not addressing mental health puts vulnerable individuals at risk of entering a cycle of poverty and vulnerability; the World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that vulnerable groups – such as the many millions of poverty-stricken Kenyan citizens across the country – are more likely to have higher rates of mental health conditions and mental disorders conversely meet the criteria for vulnerability.

Under-resourced Kenyans deserve the opportunity to do more than jump from one vulnerability status to another. Organisations like Kamili provide many much needed functions that are currently underfunded or not funded at all by the government, including:

  • Operating three mental health clinics in non-hospital settings in Nairobi;
  • Sponsoring general nursing graduates to pursue specialised mental health degrees and offering on-site trainings to ensure more nurses around the country are becoming trained in mental health treatment – which are not currently offered in the main general nursing curriculum;
  • Placing mental health nurse graduates into clinics and hospitals in rural districts where communities lack any mental health treatment; and
  • Running community fairs that seek to raise awareness and recognition of mental illnesses and to decrease society’s stigmatisation of individuals suffering from them.

Kamili’s director, Melanie Blake, recently reported on a visit to western Kenya where she checked in with three up-country nurses that were part of the scholarship programme two years ago thanks to the support from Bread and Water for Africa UK and our generous friends across the UK. Melanie reports:

“Kakamega County now has four outreach clinics and…in Kapsabet, Irene (a nurse scholar graduate) has single-handedly assessed and treated 370 patients, and their families are already benefitting from her expertise. She has also set up four support groups, two of which are in the
prison.”

These nurse scholars are pioneers of community mental health in the counties that they work in.

The perseverance of the Kamili team and of the nurses is changing the local perceptions of mental illness and the country’s landscape of mental health treatment options.

For just £4,500, you can help us train more nurses like Irene or Mary Angela who are changing lives across Kenya. Even a small monthly gift can make a serious dent in expanding these successful projects to even farther-flung locations in Kenya. As Melanie says, “0ur goal is to
have a mental healthcare nurse within 100km reach of every Kenyan.”