Epileptic people discriminated in Burundi

Epileptics are treated abominably and unfairly in the Burundian society. On the occasion of the International Epilepsy Day, the Ministry of Public Health says it organizes sensitization campaigns to break down the prejudices.

Jean-Pierre Nshimirimana: “The main problem of epileptic people is that they are afraid of talking about it”.

Jean-Pierre Nshimirimana: “The main problem of epileptic people is that they are afraid of talking about it”.

They are described as bewitched and possessed by a demonic spirit as well as people with a lower intelligence quotient. “I often ignore what happens when I fall into epileptic crisis. People who are around me run away for fear of being affected”, says a patient met at the Action against Epilepsy Center (APLE).

She says her spouse often helps her to recover. “It is not easy to have someone who would understand your situation given that you become unconscious”, she says.

Jean-Pierre Nshimirimana, Director of the Action against Epilepsy Center (APLE), says many people recover from this disease and resume their daily activities after being treated carefully. “The main problem of epileptic people is that they are so afraid of talking about it that they increase its severity”, he says.

Nshimirimana also says they forget that more they are sluggish to be treated; more the disease develops the resistance. “But thanks to the different sensitization campaigns, the number of people coming for consultation is increasing”, he says.

Since January 2016 when the APLE center opened its doors, about 2000 patients have been consulted. “We daily register five patients with an average of one hundred per month”, he says.

The APLE center director says epilepsy is mainly due to the congenital malformation, encephalitis, sequels of a suffering at birth, head trauma, stroke, tumor, central nervous system infections, cerebral malformations…

Josélyne Miburo, Head of chronic disease services at the Integrated National Program for the Control of Chronic and Non-Communicable Diseases in the Ministry of Public Health, says out of 30.000 patients suffering from mental diseases registered in different centers, 2% of them suffer from epilepsy. “Most of them confirm that they are discriminated in the society which is why they fear to consult health centers”, she says.

Miburo says the ministry of public health plans to increase health centers and programs to take care for epileptic people. She also says the ministry is doing its best to provide sufficient medicines. “The drugs prescribed for epileptic people are carefully regulated because they are hardly available”, she says.