Epilepsy Warriors Foundation has appealed for enhanced integration of epilepsy and mental health disorders into existing primary and community health services as a way of increasing access to services for people with the conditions.
The appeal follows revelation that Malawi has over 500, 000 people who are suffering from epilepsy, which usually result into mental health disorders.
Epilepsy Warriors Foundation executive director, Samuel Chigamba, told Nyasa Times in Lilongwe on Tuesday that a recent study the organization conducted revealed that half a million people are living with the condition in Malawi.
With support from the Epilepsy Scotland, Epilepsy Warriors Foundation organized an awareness and sensitization initiative targeting members of Chisomo Epilepsy Support Group at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe.
Chigamba said the condition has wider impacts of epilepsy on the household such as the failure of children to attend school, children dropping out of school, stigma and discrimination and households being driven deeper into poverty as a result of seeking care for members with epilepsy.
“Treatment of the condition is further compounded by lack of anti-epileptic drugs, congestion at health facilities, lack of knowledge about epilepsy, misdiagnosis by health workers and the belief that epilepsy caused by witchcraft cannot be treated by western medicine. Hence, my coming is aimed at sharing experiences and encouraging my fellow persons with epilepsy to adhere to their medication,” he said.
Chigamba also appealed to the law enforcers to prioritize safety and security of the epileptics, especially women and girls who are prone to sexual and gender based violence in their localities.
Agnes Ching’oma of Buluzi, a mother of a 23-year-old girl with epilepsy in Buluzi Village in Traditional Authority Malili in Lilongwe, described the long distances they cover to access epileptic healthcare services at either Likuni or Kamuzu Central Hospital as a barrier to poor families.
Ching’oma asked the government to consider decentralizing the services to rural health facilities.
Spokesperson in the Ministry of Health Adrian Chikumbe asked for more time to verify the number of persons suffering from epilepsy in Malawi and the challenges they are facing.