HOME > Sf >

interview to Francis Phiri

24 August 2023,@interviewer: Kasumi ITO@at home of Francis Phiri

Tweet



Kasumi Ito
I'd like to know how did you get involved in the movement?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, to start with, I'm Francis Joseph Phiri. I've been with MHUNZA for over 20 years now, as a volunteer since its founding, since they started, I think, in 2006. That's when they were registered. To start with, I was teaching at Chainama College of Health Science. Now Chainama is the psychiatry hospital. It's a referral specialist hospital. But then they have included other courses like environmental health, clinical medicine, and, me, I was teaching environmental health. In my extracurricular activities, I got involved in charitable work with the Lions Club, Lions International, Rotary International. And then eventually I involved my students to do outreach work particularly in alcohol and drugs. And that was the way back in 1989. From that time, we started the work. That is when we started it. That is when I started work on alcohol and drugs. And then because I was in the hospital environment, that's where I stayed. That's where I had my house in Chainama Hospital.

Kasumi Ito
Did you live near?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, near the college. I was teaching at the college and with my students I was involved in extracurricular activities. We started the work on alcohol and drugs. Then, later on, Mr. Katontoka got involved in the ? we had what was called the Mental Health Association of Zambia.

Kasumi Ito
It's not MHUNZA?

Francis Joseph Phiri
No. It was the one that started earlier, Mental Health Association of Zambia way back in 1987, I think.

Kasumi Ito
1987?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, yeah. Then, following that, the Mental Health Association, the users themselves said that gnothing without us for ush, so the users themselves wanted to find have their own association. It's like the positive living HIV, where you have the people living with the virus forming their own positive living movement. So, in the same way, Sylvester Katontoka started MHUNZA, Mental Health Users Network of Zambia to focus on the users. Coming forward, this is my background how I got involved.

Then, later in the year 2006-07 - in fact, 2008, when I came back from MHUNZA in 2010. In 2010, I was co-opted as a board member for MHUNZA because of my background of Chainama College as a Lecturer. So, they co-opted as a board member. And that time, [Kasumi editied in this version] I was coming from Kafue, but it was also voluntary work. I was the volunteer director. There was no pay, nothing.

And then later on I got involved in the legal capacity project, which was sponsored by OSISA, and it was implemented jointly with ZAFOD, Zambia Federation for Persons with Disability. We jointly implemented it for 2 years. That was the 2015 or '16. Then, later on, on that project, I was Project Coordinator. Then, after the project, we had a few other projects that were funded by PANPPD, Pan African Network of Persons with Psychosocial Disability.

Kasumi Ito
Psychosocial.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yeah, Psychosocial Disability. Yeah, I was also a project coordinator. I wrote the proposals. Now the major problem that was with the MHUNZA was that it had not been audited. When I got in, we had the accounts audited to get support from donors. And then, unfortunately, Mrs. Mugala, one who was the finance manager passed on in year 2012. She passed on and then that's how now we got Peter Siliya. Basically, at the office, we are four; the director himself means the project coordinator, then the human resource and the finance manager, then we have also an office assistant. What are some of major achievements? We managed to get the farm for a 99 year Lease from the Kafue District Council. I applied for farm, and it was accepted for MHUNZA in Kafue. We have title lease for 99 years. We are processing the title, but the offer letter is there. We have it.

Kasumi Ito
You get the farm.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, the farm, about 4 hectares.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Then, we have collaborated very well with other organizations like the Disability Rights Watch (DRW). And then, we have also another organization called the PAN; Paralegal Alliance Networks. We have collaborated with them on Mental Health issues.. They have conducted research together with us.

Kasumi Ito
Research.

Francis Joseph Phiri
With the MHUNZA. There is a research booklet they have written. Then, we also have collaborated with the Ministry of Health. Then, I think, there were partners ? OSISA has been our partner. We've been running this project. We've been running this project for 1 year now. It's coming to an end. It started in September last year. And then it's ending in September this year. This has project funded by OSISA has enabled us to travel to different parts of the country to organize the regional centers in North Western, and in Eastern Provinces. Then, what are the modules. What we have been doing? We have been going to communities to carry out campaigns on advocacy work on stigmatization of mental health. Then, we have also taken part in the write up for the revised mental illness, diagnostic and the Treatment manual. Yeah, we have taken part in revising this important manual. Then, I think one of the major achievements that we have had is the follow up to the Mental Health Bill to the Mental Health Act of 2019. That was a very big achievement for us. We were going to the minister, pushing him to get the bill tabled before Parliament in Zambia. We did a lot of work advocacy work. Then, I think another significant thing is we have appeared before Parliamentary Committee on Health twicw this year (2023). The Zambian Parliamentary, we have made Submissions as Key Stakeholders. Parliamentary Committee on Health, we have appeared twice. Then, we also made the submission to Parliamentary Committee on the Auditor General's Report where they reported that only 2% of the total budget for Ministry of Health was allocated for Mental Health services. Only 2% of the total budget for Ministry of Health is allocated to Mental Health services. I can send you the document.

Kasumi Ito
Please, yes.

Francis Joseph Phiri
What are the achievements? For now, we are renting offices. We don't have offices of our own. We are renting from ZAPD.

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Then, we have only four members of staff. We have held the several trainings in capacity building both in Kafue and in the different areas of Lusaka. One of the workshops that we had was with the key partners where we brought the issue of shortages for drugs for mental health. Then, what are the significant things? I think we have managed to consider or to bring mental health awareness on radio programs. Yeah, then I think one of the biggest challenges has been the lack of funding.

Yeah, so challenges, we have had a few challenges, the lack of funding. Then, we don't have program officers. We depend on volunteers who have other things to do. Then, MHUNZA are so unable to meet often with the board because of lack of funding again. We haven't had an annual general meeting, which is required every after 3 years. Then, I think it's very disappointing to note that the corporate world is not interested in mental health. We invited them. We invited 30, then only 3 companies came. Then, of course, parliament was very supportive to us, and they keep inviting us. The National Assembly, they have recognized the MHUNZA as a key stakeholder, particularly in the Ministry of Community Development. Question from you.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
We have taken part in the formulation of the National Alcohol Policy.

Kasumi Ito
National what?

Francis Joseph Phiri
National Alcohol Policy which has since been ratified by the Zambian Government.

Kasumi Ito
Alcohol, okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
And then we have also participated in reform. One of the biggest achievements is the Mental Health Act.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. The place which you met Mr. Katontoka is Mental Health Association in Zambia. Yeah, the place you met Mr. Katontoka is Mental Health Association.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, we met first in the Zambia Mental Health Association - yeah, we met Mr. Katontoka first as volunteers in - as members of Zambia Mental Health Association before he formed this MHUNZA. Let me open this for you. I met him way back more than 20 years ago. Yes.

Kasumi Ito
You have participated at the Mental Health Association as teacher in Chainama College of Health Sciences?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, in mental health, yes. I was a lecturer at the Chainama College of Health Scinces in Lusaka.

Kasumi Ito
Yes.

Francis Joseph Phiri
And then, I mobilized students to be going out in the communities. Yeah, I was an advocate of - I stimulated students to go out in the communities apart from class work. I was involved in the Rotary International by the formation of the Rotaract Club at the institution.. We wereeven awarded 1,000.00 Pounds by the Commonwealth Youth Program. Then, in 1991, I was elected youth representative for the Commonwealth Youth Program for Africa. Then, we have participated in a lot of seminars, workshops. The Therapeutic Cntre in Kafue will be presented in South Africa at the global Alcohol Policy Alliance in October 2023.

Kasumi Ito
South Africa?

Francis Joseph Phiri
South Africa? Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, GAPC-2023 Conference. It's there on the website.

Kasumi Ito
Only the website?

Francis Joseph Phiri
In South Africa, we will present it there as a model which - as it tends to be replicated in other communities as the lesson from MHUNZA. Then, the other thing, we're also involved with the village headman in MHUNZA, a Traditional leader in the village of Lukolongo in Kafue.

Kasumi Ito
Village what?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Village cultural leader.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
In the villages.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. I want to know more about after you met Mr. Katontoka, how did you make MHUNZA?

Francis Joseph Phiri
To start with, when I met Mr. Katontoka, I used to work for Ministry of Health.

Kasumi Ito
You used to?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, Ministry of Health.

Kasumi Ito
After you retired Chainama University.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Chainama, I was transferred at Ministry of Health Headquarters as the administrator. When I was at the Ministry of Health Headquarters, I had a lot of influence. Mr. Katontoka used to come to my office. And then later on when I moved to the NGO called PPAZ, as Planned Parenthood Association of Zambia, I became a youth worker here, in Kafue, started the project in 1997. In 1997, he started the project for youth, adolescent reproductive health. They are also documented on World Bank best practices, Kafue youth project. I did that project for 5 years and along with Mr. Katontoka.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. He came to Kafue also, Mr. Katontoka?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, been coming for a long time.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
We know each other both at personal level and at work level. I am one of the people that encouraged him to form MHUNZA. Each time he had Challenges he would also come to my office.

Kasumi Ito
How did you get members?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Because of the Chainama college, a lot of my former students who have done mental health help MHUNZA organize members in various communities in Zambia. For me, it's very easy. Each time I go to a hospital, someplace, some people recognize me as the former lecturer.

Kasumi Ito
So, you mobilized students?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yeah. To get involved in mental health advocacy. And then some of them got very big positions. One of them was Deputy Commissioner for DEC, for Drug Enforcement Commission. From that student group and among them, we have the National Mental Health Coordinator. He is my former student. I have quite a bit of network. I have lot of experience in community mobilization, which has been enhanced by my master's in social work and human resource degree. Okay, the other thing, I'm also professional youth worker. I hold the honors degree in community education, then coupled with my experience as Environmental Health Officer. I know how to interact with the government at all levels. At the basic community level because I have worked at the clinic before, and then at the district level, I worked as the District Health Inspector. And at the tertiary level, at the college level, as a lecturer. And then at national level, I was the administrator for the Reproductive Health Unit. Then, I have wide experience with working with the NGOs. Since I left the Ministry of Health in 1997, I've been working for different NGOs. I formed one NGOs called Bwalo Global Development Trust, Bwalo Trust. It's an NGO that works side by side with the MHUNZA.

Some of those members are members of Bwalo, so Bwalo focuses on indigenous knowledge for development, indigenous knowledge I learned a lesson from Japan in that after the tragedy of Hiroshima, you still kept your culture. Japanese culture inspires me to keep my tradition and culture, because you can use the language for local people to develop themselves to discover what they can do for themselves. This is what I'm trying to do, yes, to say you value your culture, value your tradition and then help yourself to develop. This is where you see a lot of things I do as an example. Even my children speak the local language, but they can speak English as well. From Japan I learned culture is very important. Then, we can use culture to develop ourselves because then people believe in themselves. There if you saw the office, the basic furniture, I want them to develop to say, now, we need the table. Where do we get this? Where do we get that? We don't pay them anything.

Kasumi Ito
How did you get office?

Francis Joseph Phiri
We just paid for the rentals, rentals for the office and the paintings, but they volunteer. Those are volunteers. They are not paid anything at all.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. You rent from the ZAPD in Lusaka but the Therapeutic centre is rentaed from a Private Businessperson. You rent office and desks from Zambia Association for Persons with Disabilities.

Francis Joseph Phiri
We are renting the office space only from ZAPD.

Kasumi Ito
ZAPD, okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
The office is of ZAPD.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. Until now you are renting?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, yes. That's why our office isc

Kasumi Ito
Okay. In 2006, you started to rent the office?

Francis Joseph Phiri
In 2006, that's when I became almost - yeah, I sat in the office as a volunteer on the board.

Kasumi Ito
Yes, at that time, office was rented from the ZAPD.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes. Even that time.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
But it was located somewhere else, not where we are now.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yeah, so there is a lot that we have done. ZAPD has been supportive, but there is more we can do with the support. We have written project proposals, which we hope can be funded.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. When the Kafue office was opened?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yeah, Kafue Office was opened in 2010 when I came back from working for another NGO in Mansa. I opened the Kafue Office because I became board member, and then I was also doing professional counselling on Alcohol and other drugs and for addicts.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. You became board member in 2010.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes. I thought we should do something here in Kafue because I stay here. Then, previously, I had a very big project written by the World Bank. For me, it was easy to mobilize people because they know me from project. It was political, non-political, church leaders, you have seen wherever I go everybody say, oh, Mr. Phiri.

Kasumi Ito
What is your work as a board member of MHUNZA? What is your main work as a board member?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Right now I am project coordinator. I coordinate the different projects. I document. I plan. I help MHUNZA implement some of the projects. Then, I coordinate also the different entities. I do most of the secretariat work.

Kasumi Ito
When did you leave the board member and become a project coordinator?

Francis Joseph Phiri
[Kasumi editied in this version]

Kasumi Ito
To get subsidy?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
I organize meetings.

Kasumi Ito
Do you mean general assembly meeting.

Francis Joseph Phiri
No, no, meeting for the board members for our staff or volunteers.

Kasumi Ito
What do you discuss in such a meeting?

Francis Joseph Phiri
We discuss fundraising. We discuss advocacy work so that mental health is inclusive. One of the best results is, we didn't have mental health department at Kafue General Hospital. But now we have. What we did was we told the volunteers to write ? I wrote the letter. I give it to the volunteers. They took it to the political head of Kafue, the District Commissioner. The District Commissioner, we also influenced the hospital to assign staff and to help with this. That was very good. Because it came from the Political leadership was telling how and what involved to bring the Mental Health Department in the hospital. That was a very big achievement for us. Then, politically, again, they were given a farm. They have allocated land to us. Then, again, we have involved the traditional leaders, a village headman is involved. We have a colleague there is a military person. They are difficult toc

Kasumi Ito
Yeah, it must be very difficult.

Francis Joseph Phiri
cto bring them to sit like he was sitting there. Yeah, because he is a very high ranking man. He is colonel. But he is retired. You can use his experience to mobilize people and to talk to people. They give us credibility.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. When you take people to the hospital, what does the hospital do?

Francis Joseph Phiri
They give them medication. They diagnose them. They know what is causing the problem. Then, they give them treatment. Some of them have recovered.

Kasumi Ito
In the future to become inpatient?

Francis Joseph Phiri
No, we don't have this. What we are now ? you know the story of camel.

Kasumi Ito
Camel.

Francis Joseph Phiri
In Egypt, there is camel. The camel was asking the owner of the tent to say, it's too hot here. Can I just put my nose? Then, the owner of the tent said, okay, okay, just put your nose. Then, the camel sit, but my head is in the sun. Then, the owner of the tent said, okay, just put your head. Then, eventually, the camel said, no, I need the whole body. Eventually, the Camel had to throw out the owner of the tent. What I'm trying to say is, first, we didn't have any service. Now we have a service. They have given them a table and a room. The eventually we will have an admission ward for mentally ill patients.

The argument was that they have an office for gender-based violence. But they didn't have for mental health. So, we wrote to them with the politicians to talk to them. And then now they have a desk. So, as MHUNZA, we refer clients. Some of the people when they're in a crisis, they are violent, they are what you knowc so they had nowhere to take them. They used to take them to the Lusaka, Chainama hospital. Now you can go there. And then even me when I'm counselling people for addiction or even drugs, I refer them to the hospital because you can't manage somebody who is an addict. You can only counsel them, but then you have to take them for further management and detox.

Kasumi Ito
If people cannot go to hospital, how do patients live in the community?

Francis Joseph Phiri
We help them to adhere to medication. Adherence sometimes is difficult because some patients are on lifelong treatment, especially some patients those with mental illness. You need to manage them. Yeah, this is why we emphasize that they come with their relatives. So that they are assisted. And then some of them are our members and some of them are caregivers.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. Is there other branch of MHUNZA do such a community work?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes. Where Mr. Mulima our Board Chairperson stays, they have a community based approach in Chazanga compound in Lusaka. Mr. Murima has organized a community support group in Lusaka. He is the president of MHUNZA. He also is emulating what we're doing here in Kafue. They don't have a center, but they're doing what - they're helping out. So, we have, what is said to be, public health approach. We take care of our people within the communities. Now people are coming to us to give us the problems, challenges, so it's beginning to now work. The model is that we want to see community involvement within the communities. Then, Mr. Phiri being there, no; Katontoka being there, no. This is community-led community approach working out everything.

Kasumi Ito
Volunteers go to community and find people.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes. They go to communities to find people, and then people find them also, it's two ways, two directions. Volunteers go to find people and then people also come at the centreto find them. Sometimes they stop there to ask you what are you doing here? No, take care of mental health and psychosocial needs of people in the community. Then, those who know they can refer people there. There are several examples like there was one he used to mess himself. It was a mental condition. But now after they took him to hospital, he is okay. Everybody's surprised.

Kasumi Ito
Okay, I want to know more.

Francis Joseph Phiri
It's just that the room is small. But to me, the bottom line is the presence of our NGO in the community being manged by people fron the community as volunteers

Kasumi Ito
The room which we went to in the morning?

Francis Joseph Phiri
This is small, but the idea is big, big idea.

Kasumi Ito
Yeah. I want to know more about the Mental Health Act revision which you achieved in 2019.

Francis Joseph Phiri
What did we achieve?

Kasumi Ito
Yes. I want to know what did you achieve in revision of the Mental Health Act.

Francis Joseph Phiri
As an individual?

Kasumi Ito
And also as an organization.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Okay. Yeah, we have done one. We did the research on - I'll give you the book, just remind me. We did the research on knowledge of CRPD, and the Mental Health Act. We have the publication. Okay, we have represented the MHUNZA very well at various forums. And then, what have we achieved? We have mobilized members. We have gone out in the community in different districts. We have talked to the medical and the community development people.

Kasumi Ito
What is main achievement in the Mental Health Act revision, which was occurred in 2019, you mentioned?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Oh, yeah, 2019 is the Mental Health Act was assent to and made into Law of Zambia. It gives fundamental freeds and universal rights to Persons with Psychosocial and Mental disability. Yes. We went to see the minister of Health in order to achieve what we managed for MHUNZA.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. What is main point, main issue for you.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yeah. The main issue is that now we have a law that protects the persons with mental disability.

Kasumi Ito
Before that?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Before that there was archaic law. Yeah, the law that was for 1948.

Kasumi Ito
1948, okay. Previous law does not protect people with psychosocial disability?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes. That Law labelled persons with mental disability with such derogatory terms.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
But the 2019 Mental Health Act is very good. Because it's very specific for mental health. Then, in the Act, they mentioned to form a board, Mental Health Board of which a user is supposed to be part of the board. They have mentioned that so MHUNZA, we are users, so can be part of the board. They have already done the nominations, but they haven't yet appointed the board.

Kasumi Ito
Haven't yet?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Not yet. But they have written to us to nominate members.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. And you nominated.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes.

Kasumi Ito
But he or she haven't.

Francis Joseph Phiri
It's getting - the government is slow.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
When we made presentation in Parliament, we told them that the Minister of Health was slow in implementing the Mental Health Act by putting in place a board responsible for mental health by appointing a board.

Kasumi Ito
How many members in board?

Francis Joseph Phiri
I can send you thec

Kasumi Ito
Thank you.

Francis Joseph Phiri
You send me your email. I think it's there.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. I will contact to you. I will send my email.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yeah, no problem. Then, I can send you those documents. I can send you some of the reports to know what we talk about in meeting.

Kasumi Ito
Yes, yes. Thank you so much.

Francis Joseph Phiri
The minutes for the meetings

Kasumi Ito
Really? Oh, it's very helpful for me. Thank you so much. How did you advocate to revise the Mental Health Act?

Francis Joseph Phiri
To revise thec

Kasumi Ito
To establish Mental Health Act.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Okay. Yeah, it was a long struggle. First, it was court issue, the high court issue where the judgement ruled in our favour. Then, we met with other organizations. We even had committee set up to go and visit the Minister. Yeah. Then, we wrote letters to the Ministry of Health. We had meetings with the minister, the previous minister. I was lucky, he was friend of mine.

Kasumi Ito
Oh really?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Mental health ? I said but you haven't presented the Bill in Parliament. No, I'm presenting next week. I said, no, that's what you say every time. He says come back. Then, he went to present it to Parliament because he was a medical doctor and a Member of Parliament. I worked with him. It was easy.

Kasumi Ito
Yes, okay. Is there any opposition to opinion of MHUNZA?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes. We have similar organizations, but they are also looking for resources. We have to compete for the resources. Sometimes, they get it in the name of MHUNZA.

Kasumi Ito
Oh really?

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yes, they say, these people can't talk for themselves. So, we are representing them, give us the money, it will go to them. There are a lot of organizations that are getting funding on behalf of MHUNZA. We know them.


Francis Joseph Phiri
We work with them, but they also use mental health to get funding.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
So, those are our politics. Then, sometimes, they tend to use Katontoka and our president because he is a user, or they have suffered the experience of mental illness. So, people say, oh, you come and then give us your testimony. Then, they will say [Unclear] but nothing, they don't bring back anything. It's a very big disadvantage. It's like the pharmaceutical companies. They will use you as a guinea pig to experiment on their medicine. Whether the medicine works or it doesn't work, they won't come back to you.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. Do your organization get some money from the pharmaceutical company?

Francis Joseph Phiri
No. Basically, MHUNZA don't want to get money from pharmaceuticals. Although if we write an agreement that they're not going to use us as subject, then they can give us their money.

Kasumi Ito
Is there any example with pharmaceutical company use people to do experiment?

Francis Joseph Phiri
To start with the pharmaceuticals, they sell medicines in hospitals. So, now we have a national body ZAMRA, which oversees the importation of medicines in Zambia. So, we no longer deal with pharmaceuticals. Zambia Medicine Regulatory Authority.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. Now, you are also volunteer at MHUNZA.

Francis Joseph Phiri
In 50% time.

Kasumi Ito
Okay.

Francis Joseph Phiri
The other 50% in Kafue, I am a farmer for macadamia nuts and vegetables.

Kasumi Ito
Yeah.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yeah, so it's 50% time, 50% we do our own thing.

Kasumi Ito
Okay. I think I already asked.

Francis Joseph Phiri
Yeah, when you have questions for me via WhatsApp.

Kasumi Ito
Yes. Okay. Thank you so much.

Francis Joseph Phiri
I wish you all the best.

Kasumi Ito
Yes, thank you.

END

쐬Fɓ
UP:20230911@REV:
WNUSP ENUSP
TOP@HOME (http://www.arsvi.com)