Juba (Agenzia Fides) - Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are cross-cutting in nearly all the countries included within the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), more especially due to Covid -19 measures such as lockdown and quarantine put in place in most countries to help curb the spread of the Coronavirus.This is what emerged from a report by consultants who provide online spiritual and psycho-social services within the AMECEA region.
The counselling program which commenced in August within AMECEA countries (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia) included one-on-one online encounters and radio-based group therapy (see Fides, 24/10/2020).
"One area of concern that clearly stands out during this period of Covid-19 is that people have been mentally affected", said one of the counsellors. Sharing about the South Sudan experiences, AMECEA Pastoral Coordinator Fr. Emmanuel Chimombo who is overseeing the running of the project in all the conferences said that "a number of people are traumatized not only because of Covid-19 and other challenges they face as a country" such as financial hardships, gender-based violence, teenage pregnancies and drug abuse.
"When the radio program on spiritual and psycho-social support began in South Sudan, clients have been raising so many issues they have been suffering from other than Covid-19 challenges, yet they lacked spiritual and pastoral support to share their traumas", said Fr. Chimombo.
Among these, the priest added: "one challenge that is saddening in nearly all conferences is teenage pregnancies. Many countries across the region have reported that girls cannot go back to school and have lost the opportunity, while others have been disowned by their parents and family members".
"This counselling work we have been doing through radio programs is very important", one of the counsellors said and highlighted, "it is impacting lives, it is creating awareness and giving people the opportunity to reflect, think and know the need of sharing their challenges. Besides, it has been an opportunity of learning and of growth for us as counsellors" . (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 24/11/2020)