Mental health service delivery is particularly challenging in post-conflict areas like northern Uganda. The burden is high, infrastructure has suffered, and specialist staff are limited. The Wayo-Nero strategy builds off of indigenous institutions to reduce the treatment gap, following in the footsteps of successful models of health promotion for HIV.1-3
Wayo-Nero is a bi-cultural, community-led strategy that revitalizes the roles of “uncles” (Wayos) and “aunties” (Neros), who traditionally help with child-rearing. These “aunties” and “uncles” are trained as lay mental health workers, assisting in community-level case-finding, referral, follow-up and stigma reduction.
Wayos and Neros provide a bridge between the traditional and biomedical healing communities. Wayo-Nero enables traditional healers and therapists to collaborate and partner with healthcare providers in the biomedical system. Both clinicians and traditional healers receive training to promote better collaboration and understanding.
This project includes a mobile health (mhealth) component, in order to address the isolation of many villages that resulted from the destruction of roads and infrastructure during periods of conflict. Cell phones are used to share mental health information; for example, a text message (SMS) system allows people with mental illness to be identified and request support from Wayos and Neros.