By Assan Bah
In its 2022 State of Human Rights Report, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has recommended the Government of the Gambia to accelerate the enactment of the Mental Health Bill.
The Commission reported that the State has reviewed the Lunatic Detention Act 1964 and drafted the Mental Health Bill. However, limited steps have been taken to date to pass the Bill. “The Commission encourages the State to take necessary measures to expedite the enactment of the Mental Health Bill,” it urges.
The Commission said in spite of the steps taken by the government, “the Commission remains concerned about the availability of only one mental health facility in the country which is State-owned and with inadequately trained mental health professionals, and the existence of outdated laws to address mental health in The Gambia.”
The Commission further reminds the government to provide and train medical personnel on mental health services. “The Government is further reminded of its obligation under ICESCR General Comment No: 14 to take necessary measures to train doctors and other medical personnel, provide sufficient and quality hospitals, clinics, other related facilities, promote and support the establishment of institutions providing counselling and mental health services. These services are required to be equitably distributed nationwide,” the human rights commission advises.
The Commission therefore recommends the Ministry of Health to “accelerate the passing of the Mental Health Bill, and review and develop an updated Mental Health Strategic Plan.”