Health News of Friday, 15 June 2012
By Karimatu Anas
Doctor David Abdulai has taken it upon himself to provide three square meals daily to the mentally ill persons in the Northern Region of Ghana.
He also offers in addition, to feed about 130 patients a day; given out food and used cloths to the lappers and going to the prisons every Friday to help 23 malnourished prisoners.
His other works include operating hernia patients in the Northern Region. This was revealed, when this reporter visited some of the hospitals in the Northern Region to acquaint herself with some of the operations and dealings of the psychiatric health service in the region.
It was revealed that the psychiatric health service was almost non-existent in the region.There were some few beds in the hospital but no psychiatrists to treat the patients. The number of psychiatric nurses at the hospital was not impressive. The hospital, occasionally, makes referrals to psychiatric hospitals in Accra in cases beyond the control of its health experts.
Mr. Adam Yahaya disclosed that the total number for the mentally ill reached by their outfit in the three Northern Regions and Accra are 19,686. Out of this figure, 7,788 are males and 7,884 are females with children numbering 4,014.
Mr. Dokurugu Adam Yahaya is the community Projects Coordinator for Basic Needs Ghana, who is currently working in rural Northern regions (Tamale, Upper-East, and upper West and Accra).
Basic Needs is an NGO in Ghana that is into mental health and development model using a holistic and multi-faceted approach, facilitating treatment and stability for poor people with mental ill and epilepsy.
He noted that the organization is aware of Dr. David Abudlia; helping the mentally ill people, admitting that they even have some relationship with him whereby they support in the preparation of the afternoon meals for the mentally ill.
Dr. Abdulai has been doing this for 20 years now. In an interview with him, he was motivated by a human basic need that has to do with his past.
Narrating it to this reporter, he said he was the only survivor of eleven children. Ten of the children, he noted died out of poverty related diseases like malnutrition, and Anemia, “As I was growing I noted that in this Northern Region one group of people that people don’t care about are the mentally ill persons,” he noted.
He felt that the mentally ill people were the unwanted people in the society who could not take care of themselves, and therefore decided to provide them with basic human needs which are food, water and shelter.
When asked by this reporter as to how he goes about shearing the food to the mentally ill people, he mentioned some of the patients are fed at his clinic while others are fed at “Tizaa”, a place established in Tamale Central Hospital where some mentally ill people go to have fun.
The reporter tried to find out if the food given them was specially meant for only the mentally ill persons, but was revealed that they were fed with the same kind of food taken by the doctor and his family likewise his staff.
According to him, they have menu which they religiously adhered to and do not eat a meal twice a week unless they find out that a particular meal was well enjoyed.
As to the reactions of these people towards Dr. Abdulai when he approach them, he said; “the mentally ill are very friendly, they respect him and that some even thank him for given them food. Others will not even mind us at all, but all the same we don’t say they don’t like the food so we won’t give them, we give the,” he added.
Concerning their sleeping place, he noticed that he has a place in his clinic which is the destitute section which is not meant only for the mentally ill but also for people who feel they are abandoned by their relatives.
“We are the only institution in Ghana where mentally ill people come to stay on their own free will for years;” he said adding “they are allowed to go if they want to but they choose to stay.” This, according to him, is the freedom for mentally ill persons.
Talking about their relatives, Dr. Abdulia said he know some who are very caring. Some even show up when their mentally ill person dies and help in the burial. Others, he noted physically abuse the patients, with most culprits coming from traditional healers who normally chain the patients before they are brought to the hospital.
When the reporter asked him if government is aware of his works, he answered in the affirmative. His works, he said have earned him two national honors; one from ex-president Jerry John Rwlings and the other from ex-president John Agyekum Kufour.
According to him the only support from government is when the center gets donations from outside and they cannot pay for duty he writes to government for help.
David Abdulia is a medical doctor but never wanted to concentrate only on medicine, according to him, he wanted to reach out to the poor, arguing that being a doctor gives him the chance to do that.
Additional information from the Kintampo project by the Ghana Health Service also shows that 2.16 million people in Ghana have mental health problem.
Investigation supported by Pair