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Mentally ill children face many obstacles

The Day of the African Child marks the anniversary of the Soweto Uprising in 1976. On 16 June  1976, thousands of black South African learners joined in a protest against the education policies of the apartheid regime and police responded with force, killing many children. Since 1991, June 16 has been an occasion to honour the courage of these children.
In recognition of the Day of the African Child, the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) highlighted a number of challenges that children with disabilities face. These includes lack of information about the needs of children with disabilities and disorders, insufficient provision of and access to healthcare services to these children, medical aid programmes discriminate against clients who are suffering from mental as opposed to physical health problems. Also, according to LAC,public awareness about mental health conditions is limited and there are only a few places where people can access the information.
According to Namibia’s Mental Health Policy, the government provides a total of 211 psychiatric beds for the mental health needs of the entire population. In 2012 the Health Professions Council of Namibia reported that there are 96 registered psychologists. The current Namibian mental law and policy, which according to the LAC are both outdated, make insufficient reference to the specific needs of children with mental health disabilities and disorders and the drafted Mental Health Bill is yet to be tabled in Parliament.
Furthermore, patients visiting state healthcare facilities are expected to pay an admission fee, even though a waiver system exists. However, many people who are eligible for the waiver are not aware of it. Hence, according to the LAC, the admission fee can be a barrier to some people, resulting in  some children not getting the healthcare services that they need.
As part of the commemoration of the Day of the African Child, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare will launch the National Agenda for Children (NAC) 2012-2016 this Friday 15 June 2012 and the Day of the African Child celebrations are slated to take place on Saturday 16 June at the Pioniers Boys School in Windhoek.

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