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Report on Abuse Against Persons with Disability in Ghana - Human Rights Watch

  • Synopsis: Published: 2012-10-04 - Report states people with mental disabilities suffer severe abuses in psychiatric institutions and spiritual healing centers in Ghana. For further information pertaining to this article contact: Ghana News.

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Human Rights Watch, an international organization, has called on government to develop a voluntary community-based mental health service in consultation with persons with mental disabilities and their representative organizations.

Mr Medi Ssengooba, Finberg fellow at Human Rights Watch, said government should create community-based support services, including housing and healthcare that enable people with mental disabilities to live in the community.

Mr Ssengooba was speaking at a press conference to release a research report titled: "Like a Death Sentence': Abuses against Persons with Mental Disabilities in Ghana" in Accra on Tuesday.

He said people with mental disabilities suffer severe abuses in psychiatric institutions and spiritual healing centers in Ghana.

The 84-page report described how thousands of people with mental disabilities were forced to live in these institutions, often against their will and with the little possibility of challenging their confinement.

"In psychiatric hospitals, people with mental disabilities faced overcrowding and unsanitary conditions," he said.

He explained that in some of the spiritual healing centers, popularly known as prayer camps, they were often chained to trees, frequently in baking sun, and forced to fast for weeks as part of a "healing process," while being denied access to medications.

The report also highlights the challenges of people with mental disabilities, who lived in the community, faced stigma and discrimination and often lack adequate shelter, food and healthcare.

The World Health Organization estimates show that close to three million Ghanaians live with mental disabilities and 600,000 of these have very severe mental conditions.

Mr Ssengooba said government had done little to combat such abuse or to ensure that these people could live in the community, as was their right under international law.

"The government needs to take immediate steps to end abuses against people with mental disabilities in institutions, prayer camps and the community," Mr Ssengooba said.

He described the conditions in which many people with mental disabilities live in Ghana as inhuman and degrading.

Mr Ssengooba called on government to ensure that people were not forcefully detained in these facilities or in psychiatric hospitals and that they had access to mechanisms to challenge any violations of their rights.

He acknowledged the country for ratifying the Disability Right Convention and said it was time to see some real changes to the policy for people with mental disabilities in Ghana.

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