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40 flee from Kenyan mental hospital

NAIROBI — Kenyan police on Monday searched for 31 mentally ill patients who escaped from the country’s only public psychiatric facility.

Police Chief Samuel Anampiu said about 70 male patients overpowered the guards at Mathari Mental Hospital and 40 managed to escape Sunday morning.

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Nine of them have since been brought back by parents and guardians, according to Dr. Kisivuli Azenga, hospital medical superintendent.

Azenga said one of the patients incited the others after the attendants delayed giving medicine to the patients.

Mental health care in Ken­­ya suffers from a lack of funding. Poverty, a lack of access, and the stigma associated with mental disorders prevent many patients from getting good assistance.

Azenga said that the patients who escaped are not a ‘‘danger to the society’’ but added that it is important for them to return to the facility so they can finish their treatment.

He said the escape was unusual because such a large number of patients were involved. Azenga said there have been previous attempts in which two to three patients escaped.

Also Monday, authorities said two employees of an elephant conservation group in one of Kenya’s most popular wildlife parks have been charged with ivory smuggling.

The Amboseli Trust for Elephants said it is confident that an investigation will exonerate the two, a mother and a son.

A spokesman for the Kenya Wildlife Service, Paul Udoto, confirmed the arrests and Monday’s court arraignment but said he could not share further details.

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