A women rights advocacy non-governmental organisation (NGO), Songtaba, has called on stakeholders in the health sector to take steps to extend access to mental health services to inmates of alleged witch camps in the northern part of the country.
It said it was prudent to periodically screen inmates of mental health conditions and provide counselling to them, because the living standards in such camps increased their risk of developing mental health issues, especially depression.
The call comes at the backdrop of a research conducted by the NGO, where it found out that depression was prevalent among inmates of alleged witch camps in the Northern and North East regions.
According to findings of the study, 52.7 per cent of inmates sampled lived with depression as results of low quality of lives in the camps, neglect by family members and abuse of their fundamental human rights, among other factors.
Also, over 97 per cent of alleged witches had low or extremely poor quality of life in their camps, which exposed them to severe societal challenges such as stigmatisation and neglect by family members.
The study titled: “Prevalence of depression, quality of life and gender dynamics of women accused of witchcraft in Northern and North East regions of Ghana”, was conducted with technical support from Ghana Somubi Dwumadie, with funding support from the United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKaid).
It formed part of the NGO’s “Promoting Women Mental Health Rights in Ghana” project being implemented in the Northern Region.
Poor Quality of life
The Head of Programmes and Policy at Songtaba, Abdul Kasiru Shani, at a stakeholders forum in Tamale last Tuesday to disseminate the findings of the study, noted that the situation had led to high depression rates among inmates, and appealed to officials from the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to periodically visit these people to cater for their mental health needs.
The Chief Pharmacist at the Northern Regional Health Directorate, Dr Dominic Otchere, stressed the need for the government to strengthen mental health institutions with the needed resources to help them carry out their mandates diligently.
For his part, a Senior Public Education Officer and Investigator at the Northern Regional Office of the Commission for Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), Inusah Iddrisu, also called on relevant stakeholders to intensify the public education on human rights to effect attitudinal change towards persons accused of witchcraft.
The Northern Regional Coordinator of the Domestic Violence and Victims Support Unit (DOVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Emmanuel Holortu, indicated that there must be a consultative engagement between human rights advocates and traditional authorities to sensitise chiefs and other community opinion leaders on the consequences of accusing people, especially women, of witchcraft, and devise strategies to stop such acts.