Mental Disabilities: The Need for Sensitization in Rural Communities in Africa.

Peter for blog

Mental Disabilities: The Need for Sensitization in Rural Communities in Africa.

My parents have served as medical experts for over 25 years now, but none of them knew what Autism, Down syndrome or Learning disabilities was until I told them, after just finding out myself.

It is a general phenomenon in Africa especially here in Cameroon. Many people do not know what these mental disabilities are. Unfortunately, many African children are suffering with these conditions because people do not know what they are, or how they can be handled. Most Cameroonians have developed humiliating terms, and use them to describe people with mental disabilities.

After vigorous sensitization campaigns carried out by Crystal Foundation in Cameroon, campaigns that are ongoing, It has been discovered that most people humiliate children with mental disabilities out of ignorance. A research carried out randomly on the streets of a local community in Cameroon indicated that most people judge people with mental disabilities and associate them to mysticism and witchcraft. People with mental disabilities are most often isolated from society and are “objects of shame” according to Madam Irene, a local inhabitant of Meluf, a rural community in Cameroon.

This negative  societal orientation on mental disabilities come from interpretations made by primitive witch doctors and ignorant traditional leaders whose opinions weigh heavily on most African communities.

Through its advocacy program, Crystal Foundation has been able to sensitize many people in rural communities in Cameroon. Many people have confessed that the sensitization campaigns were necessary. Some communities are now changing the way they treat people with mental disabilities. People are now becoming friendly with people with mental disabilities.

However, there is need for more. We went down the streets of a local community where we had gone for an economic empowerment scheme, and wanted to get the opinion of people in the community about Autism, Down syndrome and Learning Disabilities. Out of the ten people we meet within an hour, no one among the ten was able to identify what these disabilities were.

There is much awareness going on now, but there is need for more. The lives of many children with mental disabilities are changing, but there are still others out there lamenting in societal ignorance, hoping and waiting for help.

I am particularly grateful to all who help make these sensitization campaigns possible.


Nfon Mark Benyou

Crystal Foundation, Cameroon