Published: Thursday, 18 February 2016 08:36

Some 29,137 patients of epilepsy were recorded between 2012 and 2015, according to national coordinator for Epilepsy Sierra Leone, Max Bangura.

He was speaking to Concord Times on Tuesday, 9 February at their head office on 8 Mansaray Street, Wellington, east of Freetown.

Sierra Leone joined other countries across the world to observe International Epilepsy Day, which is marked every second Monday in February.

He said observance of the day was to create a platform for people suffering from epilepsy to share their experiences globally and help raise awareness about the illness.

Mr. Bangura noted that some people attribute epilepsy to demons or witchcraft, adding that the disease is non transferable or demonic and has nothing to do with witchcraft. He said such beliefs were paving way for stigmatisation of people suffering from the disease.

“Stigma is our fight against epilepsy in Sierra Leone. Whenever patients get attacked around fire, water or even school going children, people that are present move away in fear of not contracting the sickness,” he said. “We have about 5,000 permanent patients who are visiting the health centre for treatment.” About 90% of them had undergone traditional treatment, he added.

He said they usually provide counseling for victims and sensitise people about the disease, while vulnerable people, under-five children and pregnant women are given free treatment.

He revealed that to mark International Epilepsy Day few of the patients participated in awareness raising programmes targeting religious leaders and communities, while schools were also sensitised on first aid treatment.

The national coordinator said they operate a vocational centre for epilepsy patients, which currently has 20 youth that are being trained in various skills.

Community Health Officer, Martin Sesay, said he diagnoses and provides counseling for epilepsy patients at the Connaught Hospital, Rokupa Government Hospital, Waterloo and Lumley health centres.

He said patients are warned against drinking alcohol, eating kola nut and other drugs that might trigger the disease, noting that epilepsy always affects the brain.

By Regina Pratt

Concord Times News paper