Malketha Maternal Services ran the "Love-notes" Refugee-Mothers Mental Health Campaign, targeting mothers in refugee settlements in Uganda. The campaign ran for three weeks, from Monday 23rd September 2019 to Thursday 10th October 2019. Malketha partnered with Real Medicine Foundation (the medical implementing partner for UNHCR in refugee settlement areas in Uganda) for a wrap-up event in Kiryandongo Refugee settlement on 12th October 2019.
In commemoration of the World Mental Health day, a group of representatives from Malketha Maternal services went to Kiryandongo refugee settlement to celebrate the event. Among the participants were the women representative for Kiryandongo refugee settlements, Mother-care group leaders and mothers from different clusters in the settlement. The event brought together hundreds of mothers who were specifically sensitized about their mental health. In addition to new/gently-used baby/mother items, finances, and food items, well-wishers contributed "Love-notes" of encouragement for the mental health of the mothers/care-takers.
Worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. Depression causes enormous suffering and disability. The affected mothers cannot function properly and may fail to adequately eat, bathe or care for themselves in other ways leading to an increase in the risks of ill health. As a result of prolonged or severe mental health problems, the children’s growth and development may be negatively affected due to the reduced response to child’s health and care by the mother. Very young infants are especially affected by and are highly sensitive to the environment and the quality of care, and are likely to be affected by mothers with mental disorders causing situations of child neglect and malnutrition.
Jackie Kisakye Nsanze, a Clinical psychologist with Malketha and a professional with experience in mental health treatment in refugee settlements, gave an address to the participants highlighting the statistics, signs and symptoms, effects and treatment for various mental illnesses prevalent in mothers in vulnerable conditions especially.
"Virtually all women can develop mental disorders during pregnancy and in the first year after delivery, but poverty, migration, extreme stress, exposure to violence (domestic, sexual and gender-based) and low social support, as experienced by the refugees, generally increase risks for depression and other disorders such as anxiety.
The women were taught on the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety so they could easily know when to seek for help. It was emphasized that seeking help is the first step towards getting and staying well. The partner in charge of mental health care and psycho-social support in the camp was pointed out so as the ladies could have a starting point in case they needed any help. The ladies were reminded that they are not alone, and that they deserve support.
In conclusion, mental health as a whole was defined as a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community
"Your mental health matters. As a mother, you are only able to take care of your children when you take care of you first. Seek help is the first step towards getting and staying well. You matter", Jackie emphasized.
Before joining the organisers for lunch, the mothers were able to participate in a quiz about mental health with prizes including Baby care products, T.shirts, Maternity materials and many others. The team from Malketha left the refugee settlement after thanking the coordinators for their great effort in mobilisation of the mothers.
Malketha would like to say thank you to every individual, group and organisation that contributed to the success of the Love notes campaign in various capacities. Your generosity will never be forgotten.