A Sheffield health organisation has paid for 15 new hospital beds to ease pressure on mental health services in Uganda.

The country, which has a population of over 43 million but only 43 psychiatrists, has struggled to keep up with demands on their limited wellbeing services.

Nicholas Opiyo, who works at the Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, where the beds were donated, said: “We had 24 patients in the ward, but now we have less than 15. This is a clear sign the patients are improving, so they’re getting help from the beds installed on the ward.”

The partnership with Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust and the mental health ward at Gulu Regional Referral Hospital, offer support through expertise and privately-fundraised projects.

Uganda was rocked by a 20 year civil war which began in the 1980s. The Uganda National Liberation Front moved people into refugee camps, where it was reported a series of human rights abuses took place.

The country’s limited mental health support is now straining under the weight of people who were traumatised during the war, resulting in high levels of anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and a rising number of suicides.

Mr Opiyo said: “People witnessed their mothers being killed in front of them. Mothers were forced to have intercourse with their children in front of the public.

“People were abducted, taken to the bush and made to kill people. When the war ended, their land had been taken. Issues of land conflict have exposed so many people to depression because people don’t have anywhere to belong.”

Mr Opiyo explained the mental health unit at the hospital has in the past been forced to turn people away due to a lack of unusable beds. Some were in such a bad condition patients were contracting infections from them.

Greg Harrisson, coordinator of the Sheffield and Uganda partnership, said: “The benefits to the staff here who go to Gulu are also very strong. It is a two-way thing. Health staff from Sheffield who go to the hospital feel more confident.

“They also feel stronger working as a team. [Our staff] say their service to people has improved, so there’s definitely a benefit to the NHS and Sheffield.”