In Summary
  • The Cabinet Secretary for Health, Mr James Macharia, needs to move with haste to correct this situation if he knows what is good for the ministry.

Last week, a friend working at the Ministry of Health headquarters, Afya House, sent me an email informing me that with the stroke of a pen, the head honchos in the ministry had scrapped the Division of Mental Health and instead replaced it with a nondescript unit with an unclear mandate.

It is unclear what is to happen to positions in the division such as that of the director of mental health who was the top-ranking civil servant mandated to develop and implement mental health policies, strategies, plans and programmes across the country.

If it is, indeed, true that the division has been scrapped, the implications of this seemingly innocuous move are enormous.

Firstly, it is of course inconceivable that a unit in the ministry of health would have any direct budgetary allocations to carry out its own programmes.

Obviously this means that the recent promises and proclamations by government that they will enhance mental health funding and improve mental health services across the country cannot be taken with any degree of seriousness.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the move amounts to a demonstration of high-level self-defeating impunity. The Mental Health Act of 1989 provided for the setting up of the Kenya Board of Mental Health, with the Division of Mental Health serving as the secretariat of this board.

The director of mental health was meant to be secretary to this board, and chief mental health specialist in the country.

The holder of this position would be the government’s go-to person whenever mental health advice was needed, as well as being the person responsible for ensuring that the government’s mental health policies are properly implemented.

Today, the Act is yet to be fully implemented, and there is no mental health vote in the budget.

Page 1 of 2