ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) has introduced the FRIENDZ program that will strengthen health workers capacity to provide quality mental health (MH) services in the country and close the mental health treatment gap.
Zimbabwe has partnered with the Friendship Bench (FB), World Health Organization (WHO), Zimbabwe Technical Assistance, Training and Education Center for Health (Zim-TTECH) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to implement the FRIENDZ program.
As part of the FRIENDZ program implementation, Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care with support from UNICEF and WHO trained 30 Trainers of Trainers (ToTs) from 10 different provinces between 2nd – 5th August 2020.
The MoHCC together with FB, WHO and Zim-TTECH also conducted sensitization workshops with Provincial leaderships in Bulawayo and Gweru to raise awareness with provincial leadership within the country’s ten provinces including discussing integration of mhGAP into existing health programs.
Over 792 million people in Africa live with a Mental Health (MH) conditions. Like many African countries, Zimbabwe has inadequate MH specialists to support the population. The Government of Zimbabwe recognizes MH as a serious public health and development concern.
Zimbabwe is implementing the FRIENDZ program under Zimbabwe Special Initiative for Mental Health to scale up assessment and management of priority mental, neurological and substance abuse use disorders from community to primary and tertiary health care level across the country.
Zimbabwe is one of the six countries chosen to be part of WHO’s Special Initiative for Mental Health and the Initiative aims to ensure that 100 million more people have access to quality and affordable mental health care by 2023.
WHO highlights that the ToTs were trained on competency-based psychosocial support, psychological treatments, and foundational helping skills using the WHO MH Action Gap (mhGAP), noting that the ToTs are expected to cascade the training in their various provinces with support from FB and Zim-TTECH.
In addition, mental health is recognized as a priority in the most recent National Health Strategy for Zimbabwe for the period 2021-2025 and the current Ministry of Health and Child Care (MOHCC) Mental Health Strategic Plan.
MoHCC, MH Department, Deputy Acting Director, Dr. Patience Mavunganidze emphasized on the importance of FRIENDZ program which will strengthen the community and MOHCC Primary Health Care (PHC) MH system in Zimbabwe.
“FRIENDZ will strengthen referral pathways from the community level, through PHC and secondary and tertiary levels and back down, as well as ensure support supervision from higher to lower levels of care, creating a strengthened MH system of care, accessible to the population,” said Dr. Mavunganidze.
Under the FRIENDZ program, Friendship bench will scale-up Problem-Solving Therapy (PST) services in Zimbabwe by training Lay Health Workers (Village or Community Health Workers) on common mental health problems, self-care, and how to provide basic PST.
Zim-TTECH will complement the Friendship Bench work while ensuring that the school administrator provides training to more health workers in 20 districts which FB is not present in in a move that will see more health care workers delivering mental health care in Zimbabwe.
“We hope to provide our FB and services to 34,480 women, men, girls, and boys aged 16+ years using our PST which evidence has shown significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety,” reassured FB, Psychiatrist and Clinical Program Manager Rukudzo Mwamuka.
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