31 psychiatric hospital patients on the loose in Kenya

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - Kenya police on Monday searched for 31 mentally ill patients who escaped from the country's only public psychiatric facility.

Police chief Samuel Anampiu, who is in charge of the area where Mathari Mental Hospital sits, said that about 70 male patients overpowered the guards at the hospital and 40 managed to escape on Sunday morning.

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

He said one of the patients incited the others after the attendants delayed giving the 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.

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

He said the escape was unusual because such a large number of patients were involved. He added there had been previous attempts where two to three patients escaped.