Mental Health in Chad
The Republic of Chad takes a unique perspective on mental health and psychological disorders. Many in the country view these conditions as curses, and their consequences can be profound, impacting not only the afflicted individuals but also their families and even entire communities.

In some cases, these beliefs lead to physical interventions in an attempt to address the disorder or, in unfortunate instances, to hide the affected person from view due to the family’s distress over their lack of improvement. For example, others chained a 35-year-old woman to a log for two years due to her mental health troubles after contracting meningitis.

Chad faces significant economic challenges, being one of the poorest nations globally, with approximately 86% of its population living in poverty. The country has also experienced multiple civil wars since gaining independence from France in 1960. As a result, prioritizing a modern and compassionate approach to mental health has not been at the forefront of its agenda.

Despite these challenges, there are efforts within Chad to address mental health issues with greater sensitivity and understanding. Below is an overview of the state of mental health in Chad and initiatives that aim to improve it.

Mental Health Among Refugees

In areas like the Lake Chad province, where communities often have to abandon their belongings and flee due to attacks from Boko Haram or other groups, risks of mental health disorders are larger when combined with the economic exhaustion of the community and what casualties may have been caused by the attacks. Anxiety syndrome and depression are the most common physiological disorders in these communities.

In an attempt to help refugees who have fled to Chad, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, provides psychologists who work in the Lake Chad region. These psychologists have noted that one in four refugees seeking support show signs of depression. Other common reactions include sleep disorders, trauma-related anxiety and severe emotional reactions.

The Goundi Project

In spite of the numerous obstacles in Chad’s way, the country seems to be working toward a more accurate understanding of mental health struggles and what needs to happen to benefit those suffering from such issues.

In 1990, a group of Jesuits founded an integrated health program in Goundi, located in the south of Chad. This health program included a hospital and eight health care centers situated in a 30-kilometer radius, aimed to treat as many people as possible for the lowest price.

The Goundi Project has also been a help to Chad. Established in 2013, The Goundi Project aims to create a gasification system that uses agricultural residual biomass, such as corn cob waste, to generate electricity for the small community. A major goal of The Goundi Project is to get a local hospital and water supply up and running again. The overall goal is to create a gasifier that can be made and operated using materials found in Goundi so the community can operate it on its own.

This project benefits the locals of Goundi in a multitude of ways. They get a firm grasp on technology that they can adapt to their specific needs and situations and change the way that money flows. Before, money would go from the non-governmental organizations to the petroleum companies, but in using their own agriculture to power the gasifier, the money can go straight to Goundi, which would make for a better environment and economy.

The Goundi Project also includes collaboration between those designing the gasifier and the residents of Goundi. By including the local members of the community in corn cob picking and operating and maintaining the gasifier, the community of Goundi is able to make a noticeable difference in its way of life. Furthermore, the Physically Disabled Association of Goundi receives preference when it comes to helping out, in order to make the excluded group feel just as useful.

What UNICEF is Accomplishing

Additionally, in a 2022 study, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) found that 32,000 children and caregivers were accessing the mental health and psychosocial support that UNICEF provided to them. UNICEF also plans to find solutions to gender-based violence against women, which includes making them more active members of their communities and instilling in them ways to prevent and respond to any risks of gender-based violence (GBV).

The results of that response will go toward prioritizing mental health services, protecting children on a community-wide basis and supporting interventions that focus on children who have escaped from armed groups and are survivors of GBV.

About Cooperazione Internazionale’s Efforts

Additionally, Cooperazione Internazionale (COOPI), with funding from the U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance Office has started projects designed to help the displaced refugee communities who may be struggling with mental health issues without knowing how to overcome them.

COOPI has created awareness-raising sessions that aim to showcase the mental health issues addressing Chad’s population. It is trying to remove the stigma against seeing psychological disorders as curses and it discusses ways services it offers in the community can help with psychological disorders.

Due to the positive word of mouth in response to these activities and sessions, the rate of cases that these health care centers are reporting is rising. September 2018 and September 2019 saw 217 psychological consultations and 571 psychiatric cases from girls, boys, women and men.

Looking Ahead

If this kind of progress continues, Chad will no longer be a country that chains its mentally ill community members to logs and abandons them to the marabou, a traditional healer, when communities no longer know what to do for them. Chad’s lack of legislation on mental health in Chad and inability to provide specialized assistance may not be as detrimental as it once was.

Instead, the Republic of Chad will become a more understanding and intelligent community that knows the risks of mental health and psychological disorders, but will also know how to combat them and make their way of life that much better.

– Dylan Hubbard
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the DRCThe Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), despite its vast mineral wealth, faces significant challenges in socio-economic development due to high poverty levels. Political corruption, limited economic opportunities and ongoing conflict all contribute to the persistent poverty in the country. The following is a brief look into the extent and causes of poverty in the DRC.

Causes of Poverty

Gaining insight into the factors contributing to poverty is essential when analyzing the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to the International Trade Administration, the country holds significant untapped potential. In 2020, it emerged as the leading cobalt producer, accounting for 41% of global production, and ranked sixth in diamond production with 3.7 million carats. Despite agriculture being the largest sector, it has not effectively mitigated poverty, which has persisted for decades.

Statistics and Reasons for Poverty in the DRC

According to the World Bank, a significant portion of the population in the DRC, approximately 60 million people or 62%, live on less than $2.15 per day as of 2022. In 2021, the GDP per capita in the DRC was $577.20.

The prevalence of political corruption has been a major contributor to the high levels of poverty in the DRC. Political interests have taken precedence over crucial socio-economic matters, hindering the country’s development. The nation has faced persistent political conflicts due to lengthy presidential reigns, further exacerbating the challenges that citizens face.

Rather than prioritizing economic development and improving the lives of people, political issues and policies have taken precedence in the DRC. According to Africa’s Organised Crime Index, low salaries and poor treatment within the police force have resulted in a lack of seriousness in addressing monetary-related crimes, allowing perpetrators to evade punishment.

The life expectancy of a Congolese person at birth is only 59 years, as reported by the World Bank in 2021. This figure is significantly lower compared to many other countries, such as the U.S., where the average stands at 76 years. The underdevelopment of public sectors, coupled with low-income levels for the majority of Congolese people, perpetuates the cycle of poverty in the country.

Taking Action

Oxfam, an organization that has been working in the DRC since 1961, has played a vital role in promoting sustainable access to water and good hygiene practices. Through local initiatives, communities and schools have received the necessary support to maintain their access to these essential resources. Oxfam’s impactful efforts include providing life-saving aid to 700,000 displaced individuals, ensuring access to clean water and food.

Coopi, an Italian humanitarian organization, is also actively engaged in the DRC. Its initiatives encompass various areas such as providing free health care, offering support to malnourished mothers and children and promoting agricultural activities by assisting farmers in cultivating and marketing their products.

These organizations, among others, are committed to improving the living conditions of the Congolese people. By imparting knowledge on securing basic needs, they contribute to positive changes in poverty levels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

– Christelle Wealth-Mukendi
Photo: Courtesy of Christelle Wealth-Mukendi