Lack of knowledge about the causes of epilepsy has been associated with negative attitudes, beliefs and stigma in the community, workplace, and schools. Trying to overcome deep-rooted traditions, prejudices and misconceptions is always an uphill battle, nevertheless, CareEpilepsy ETHIOPIA believes that the key to overcoming stigma of Epilepsy lies in raising awareness within our society. Sadly, the stigma that surrounds epilepsy is often more difficult to overcome than the seizures themselves. Without ‘FOCUS’ and a strong voice, epilepsy will continue to be neglected and stigmatized notwithstanding so many patients in Ethiopia are severely impacted by the condition.
Having this in mind, CareEpilepsy Ethiopia organized a National Epilepsy Week, which was the first of its kind in Ethiopia. It was a joint initiative, prompted by CareEpilepsy, between CareEpilepsy Ethiopia and the Federal Ministry of Health. This event was led by the Youth for Epilepsy Ethiopia (age group 15-24 years old) project, which consists of different groups of youth, originating from different backgrounds, that join together to do all they can to help the victims of epilepsy all over Ethiopia. Using younger and fresher minds, CareEpilepsy ETHIOPIA is able to find more fun and creative ways of creating awareness.
The National Epilepsy Week was an educational event as well as a fun and exciting way to create awareness about epilepsy, teach the correct recovery position, connect with people with epilepsy, provide information on living positively and healthily for people living with epilepsy.
The Federal Ministry of Health called a press conference at their offices on 13th May 2016. The speakers were Dr Mahlet Kifle (Director General, Office of the Minister), Dr Tedla W.Giorgis (Mental Health Advisor) and Enat Yewnetu (Founder and CEO of CareEpilepsy). During the week, radio adverts and the theme song were played during the week and on the day of the walk.
Regions covered by the event
Ethiopia consists of nine regions and two chartered cities, Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. CareEpilepsy is very active in Addis Ababa and has visited four of the nine regions. They have shown genuine interest and asked for help. Each of the regions visited was given help, planning advice, and advertising material. This year’s event was held in Addis Ababa. Next year, the event will be held in one of the regions.
Addis Ababa – The walk (22nd May 2016)
Over 300 people joined the walk in Addis Ababa to highlight the need for improved epilepsy services in Ethiopia. CareEpilepsy erected booths along the route supplying shade, refreshment, and information.
Zemene Yohannes, CareEpilepsy’s Media and Communication Advisor was Master of Ceremonies for the day. Dr. Tedla W.Giorgis, Mental Health Advisor to the Ministry of Health gave the opening speech and committed to support our programme. Dr Abenet Tafese, Consultant Neurologist also spoke about epilepsy and the effects of epilepsy on a person’s quality of life. He also highlighted the need for epilepsy specialist clinicians and nurses to provide the service. Following this, Enat Yewnetu, CEO/Founder explained the vision and mission of CareEpilepsy and the reasons for the event.
A dozen or so professional actors enacted a 20-minute drama imitating a seizure, and showing the correct First Aid response. Importantly, they showed how to put someone into the recovery position. This drama brought a great response from the walkers and onlookers.
We gained the active participation of some of the regional governments, and this section focuses on the work done in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, located about 800 kilometers north of Addis Ababa. Ayder hospital in Mekele was heavily involved in the National Epilepsy Week programme, led by Professor Kinfe. Leaflets, in Amharic and Tigrinya, were distributed and Professor Kinfe manned a phone-in on successive days on Radio FM 102.2, a station covering the entire region. He answered questions from the public and provided helpful information on epilepsy.
Tigray’s regional health office has welcomed CareEpilepsy with open arms, and is interested in discussing the possibility of collaboration/partnership with our projects.
Jimma University is very supportive of our work and the event was positively accepted and financially supported. Information leaflets in Amharic and Oromo were sent out to the region to be distributed in the university, the hospital and in all health centres.