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For mentally ill patients in Kisumu, it’s a hard life

Thursday July 30 2015

A ward for mental patients at the Kisumu

A ward for mental patients at the Kisumu District Hospital. PHOTO | VERAH OKEYO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Mentally ill patients at the Kisumu County Hospital live under inhuman conditions.

Their meals are delivered in dirty utensils that are only washed occasionally, a Nation investigation has found.

A bucket of porridge is placed at the entrance to a mentally ill patient's room and an attendant pushes it in by foot, after which a grilled door is loudly locked from the outside.

The patients scramble for their dirty cups near the entrance, with which they scoop the porridge.

Jarius (not his real name), an outgoing patient, has been in this facility for over a decade because his family abandoned him. He has just washed his shirt, with no soap, and says he wishes he had doughnuts to take the porridge with.

The ward is poorly lit and without much ventilation, and the floor is dirty. Some beds have no mattresses, while the bed sheets, which seem to have once been white, are torn and have since turned brown.

There is no water at the toilets, which had not been cleaned when the Nation team visited.

The hospital’s medical superintendent, Dr Amos Otedo, declined to comment for this article.

Studies show mentally ill patients outside Nairobi suffer the most due to lack of enough psychiatric professionals, but there is little hope that the situation will change, since county governments have not paid adequate attention to the issue.

A report, Silenced Minds: The Systemic Neglect of the Mental Health System in Kenya, concludes that the conditions that mental patients are made to live in are inhuman and insanitary.

Coupled with that is the society’s apathetic attitude toward the mentally il