The Human Rights Commission (HRC) notes with a sense of encouragement the call by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia, Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu, for all Zambians to stop stigma against persons with mental impairments made during his visit to Chainama Hills Mental Hospital on New Year’s Day.
The presidential visit and interaction with patients and staff at Chainama Hills Mental Hospital was a great opportunity for the President to have first-hand information and experiences about the unique human rights challenges faced by persons with mental impairments who constitute one of the most vulnerable groups in society.
During the implementation of the Programme for Legal Empowerment and Enhanced Justice Delivery (PLEED), with focus on promoting access to justice for persons in detention and correctional facilities, the Commission visited Chainama Hills Mental Hospital on a quarterly basis in 2017 and 2018. The Commission found that the provision of psychtriatic services continued to be hampered by inadequate infrastructure and accommodation for the increasing number of persons accessing mental health services, among other challenges. There is, therefore, need to decentralise the provision of psychtriatic services to all provincial centres and progressively to all the districts in order to ensure that the services are readily available to all persons accessing mental health services in the country.
It is therefore the expectation of the Commission that the visit by the President to Chainama Hills Mental Hospital on New Year’s Day is a demonstration of the Government’s unwavering commitment to the improvement of mental healthcare and the protection of the rights of persons with mental impairments. The Government has an obligation to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of persons with disabilities in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Zambia ratified in 2010 and domesticated through the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 6 of 2012. The Commission reiterates its call for the effective and continuous implementation of the Persons with Disabilities Act No. 6 of 2012 and full implementation of the National Policy on Disability of 2015.
The Commission agrees with the reminder by the President on New Year’s Day to all the people in Zambia that we should stop stigmatising persons with mental impairments because stigma has harmful effects on their recovery and leads to discrimination and their exclusion in society. There is, therefore, need for concerted efforts by various stakeholders and all individuals towards creating an inclusive society in which all persons with disabilities are free from stigma and discrimination to ensure the full enjoyment of their rights and freedoms.
[The Human Rights Commission is a National Human Rights Institution established under Article 230 of the Constitution of Zambian (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016 to promote and protect Human Rights in Zambia]
Principal Information Officer
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION