Strengthening public mental health capacity in Africa in response to the COVID-19 outbreak

This project is a collaboration between the UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK-PHRST), WHO AFRO, Africa CDC and the West African Health Organisation. It combines research, capacity building and engagement activities in order to better understand and support the mental health response to the current COVID-19 pandemic in 25 African countries.

The research component aims to understand best practice and gaps in MHPSS aspects of the COVID-19 response at a national level in participating countries, and how capacity strengthening can be used as a tool to drive implementation of evidence-based response in the context of an epidemic emergency, and for longer-term system strengthening.

In the first 6 months of the project:

  • A Consortium for Mental Health in Africa has been established. Members include Africa CDC, WHO AFRO and EMRO, West African Health Organization (WAHO) and the East Central and Southern Africa (ECSA) Health Community Group, Public Health England, and the Centre for Global Mental Health at LSHTM. The Consortium, chaired by WHO AFRO and hosted by the PH-UKRST, has been a valuable forum to discuss and coordinate regional work on mental health, and for mutual support in responding to emerging national-level MHPSS needs.
  • 25 countries have participated in the project survey, and mental health leads in Ministries of Health, WHO and civil society have been interviewed in ten countries so far.

Findings from this research will help develop a common approach to strengthening the continent’s public mental health capacity, with a focus on strengthening capacity of national mental health focal points. This will be achieved through development and delivery of a programme focusing on technical, advocacy and leadership skills for mental health aspects of outbreak response, using online learning platforms, peer-learning, and mentorship.


Project Team

Julian Eaton, LSHTM (Project lead)

Alice Walker, LSHTM (Mental health research fellow)

Ian Walker, Public Health England (PHE lead)

Anna Seale (UK Rapid Support Team Deputy Director for Research)

Florence Baingana (WHO AFRO lead)

Mohammed Abdulaziz (Africa CDC lead)

William Bosu (West Africa Health Organisation lead)


Project partners

UK Public Health Rapid Support Team (UK PHRST) – a collaboration between LSHTM and Public Health England (PHE)

Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC)

WHO Regional Office for Africa (WHO AFRO)

West African Health Organization (WAHO)




UK Department of Health and Social Care

National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)