CONDEMNED – MENTAL HEALTH IN AFRICAN COUNTRIES IN CRISIS
Where there is war, famine, displacement, it is the most vulnerable that suffer the greatest.
Abandoned by governments, forgotten by the aid community, neglected and abused by entire societies. Africans with mental illness in regions in crisis are resigned to the dark corners of churches, chained to rusted hospital beds, locked away to live behind the bars of filthy prisons.
Some have suffered trauma leading to illness. Others were born with mental disability. In countries where infrastructure has collapsed and mental health professionals have fled, treatment is often the same – a life in chains.
I started documenting the lives of the mentally ill in African countries in crisis in an attempt to raise awareness of their plight. I travelled to war ravaged areas of Congo, South Sudan, Mogadishu and Uganda. I spent time with the displaced in refugee camps in Somalia and Dadaab. In Nigeria I went to see the impacts of corruption on facilities for the mentally ill.
After 12 years of documenting human rights issues I’ve never come across a greater assault on human dignity. These people are unseen and therefore their suffering ignored. This project is being produced in the hope that no longer will ignorance be able to be used as an excuse for inaction.
© Robin Hammond / Panos.
Robin Hammond is a freelance photojournalist born in New Zealand. He has been part of the photo agency Panos Pictures since 2007.
The winner of four Amnesty International awards for Human Rights journalism, Robin has dedicated his career to documenting human rights and development issues around the world, but especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
In 2011 Hammond won the Carmignac Gestion Photojournalism Award which allowed him to document in Zimbabwe for four months. Actes Sud published a book of the photos to coincide with an exhibition of the work in Paris in November 2012. In 2013 he won the FotoEvidence book award that will result in the publication of his long term project on mental health in Africa, Condemned. The same body of work was exhibited in September 2012 at the photojournalism festival Visa Pour l’Image.
After living in Japan, the United Kingdom and South Africa, Robin Hammond currently lives in Paris, France.
He contributes to many international newspapers and magazines including National Geographic, Time Magazine, The Sunday Times Magazine, The New York Times, and Polka Magazine. He also works regularly with various non-governmental organisations.
All images © Robin Hammond / Panos