"CONDEMNED - Mental health in African countries in crisis"
In the last 50 years, sub-Saharan Africa has seen more than it’s fair share of crises. Wars, famines and natural disasters not only leave dead to be buried but survivors to go on living. Many are left traumatised. These crises destroy the infrastructure of care that would support the mentally disabled, cause health professionals to flee, result in Governments unable or unwilling to fund policies to care for the needs of the community’s most vulnerable. To document the mental health impact of disasters in sub-Saharan Africa, I travelled to war ravaged regions of the continent. I spent time with the displaced in refugee camps. I went to see the impacts of corruption on facilities for the mentally ill. I documented how people treated mental illness when government facilities were dysfunctional. Over the course of two years in nine countries I encountered a marginalized population crouching in the dark corners of church basements, chained to beds in crumbling hospitals, tethered to sticks in dust blown tent cities, locked away behind the rusted bars of prisons: a population abandoned by their governments, forgotten by the aid community, neglected and abused by entire societies. A voiceless minority condemned to lives of quiet misery.
Severely mentally disabled men and women are shackled and locked away in Juba Central Prison for years on end. The new nation of South Sudan faces a tremendous challenge to build a modern country capable of caring for all of its citizens. Juba, Sudan. January 2011. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos