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DOUBLE JOY

Mombasa man, 80, recovers from Covid-19 and mental illness

Four of five mentally ill patients found to have the coronavirus have recovered.

In Summary

• Mombasa Women Empowerment Network chair Amina Abdalla, who runs the programme, says one is still positive and undergoing treatment. 

• Seven have made full recovery from their mental illness and have been discharged.

Mombasa Women Empowerment Network chair Amina Abdalla and helpers take a man for treatment in Majengo on Wednesday.
HERE TO HELP: Mombasa Women Empowerment Network chair Amina Abdalla and helpers take a man for treatment in Majengo on Wednesday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

 Caregivers celebrated at the Kenya Coast National Polytechnic on Wednesday after an elderly mentally ill person made full recovery from Covid-19.

Tuva Ngala, 80, was one of the five patients at the institution who had tested positive for the coronavirus. Ngala and three others are now free of the virus. 

Mombasa Women Empowerment Network chair Amina Abdalla, who runs the programme, said one patient is still undergoing treatment in an isolation room at the facility.

Abdalla said they celebrated Ngala’s recovery mainly because of his advanced age.

“We know that the elderly are the most vulnerable to Covid-19 and that is why we thank God for Ngala’s recovery,” Abdalla said.

Abdalla had been allowed to use one hostel at the KCNP to house the mentally ill people being rounded up from the streets for treatment.

“We manage them by boosting their immune systems through various nutritional foods and medicine,” she said on Wednesday.

 
Amina Abdalla [R] talks to woman at Nyali before taking her for treatment on Wednesday.
HELP IS HERE: Amina Abdalla [R] talks to woman at Nyali before taking her for treatment on Wednesday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

She rounded up 20 more mentally ill persons that day, bringing to 49 the total number of housemates. Seven have made full recovery from their mental illness and have been discharged.

However, only two will be going home after their families were traced and contacted.

“The others will still remain here because we are yet to trace their families,” Abdalla said.

But there is a new headache for Abdalla - she has been given notice to vacate the premises by the end of the month. The institution says it wants to renovate the hostels in preparation for the resumption of learning.

“We are looking for alternative premises so we can continue with our programme. These people have been forgotten completely yet they are human beings like any other and they have rights,” she said.

She said the mentally ill people are the most at risk of contracting Covid-19 and the riskiest spreaders of the disease.

“They also have rights to be tested and be treated if found with the disease,” Abdalla said. 

She said some of those in the facility have families.

A man gets a haircut upon arrival at a mental facility at the KCNP in Mombasa on Wednesday.
CLEANING UP: A man gets a haircut upon arrival at a mental facility at the KCNP in Mombasa on Wednesday.
Image: JOHN CHESOLI

The programme risks closure due to shortage of funds. Most of the financial obligations fall on Abdalla who has to buy food and medicine for the 60 patients all by herself. She also has to pay the staff helping her manage the patients.

“In terms of food, we have started getting help from well-wishers. But getting money to pay the staff and buy essentials like charcoal, soap and clothes is a challenge,” she said.

Abdalla needs at least Sh3,000 to run the facility on a daily basis when food is available.

“When we have to buy food, then the cost per day shoots to about Sh5,000.” 

She said mental illness is a kind of disability that has been neglected.

"The mentally ill have been forgotten but they can be very resourceful members of society when treated.

“The government recognises other kinds of disabilities. They are even represented in Parliament. But those who are mentally challenged are nowhere in the map,” Abdalla said.

(edited by o. owino)