Anthony Zimba explains how the Epilepsy Association of Zambia is using the banner of the Global Campaign Against Epilepsy to bring about change.
It has been three years since the launch of the Global Campaign against Epilepsy in Zambia and our country, with a population of twelve million people, is slowly becoming aware of what it is all about. There are a number of indicators that the message has been heard, though a lot has to be done. More people living with epilepsy have come out publicly to reveal their experience of seizures and to demonstrate the result of correct diagnosis and treatment. This years celebration was held in the rural district of Chongwe. The celebration was also extended to other parts of the country, specifically Monze Mission Hospital as a focal point for epilepsy activities in the Southern Province, Kitwe, Mufulira and Kabwe.
It is gratifying to note that activities arranged in 2005 and 2006 were fully sponsored by the Ministry of Health; an indication that the health authorities have understood the need for a campaign against epilepsy in our country.
The theme of this years celebration was Epilepsy and the Community, which means that the community has a responsibility to play a part in the care of people with epilepsy.
In response to numerous requests from areas under Chongwe District Health Management for a GCAE visit, the campaign started with epilepsy clinics at Chinyunyu Rural Health Centre, St Lukes Mphanshya Mission Hospital and Blessed Hope Orphanage Home in Rufunsa with a total of 60 epilepsy consultations over a two-day period. In addition, the usual epilepsy clinics in Lusaka, working in collaboration with Cheshire Home CBR Programme, were held at Mandevu and St Kizito Catholic Parishes.
Both private and government owned Zambian Media was extremely supportive during this years campaign and a number of radio and TV programmes were dedicated to epilepsy issues. Most of these programmes were initiated by the journalists who had seen the extent of the burden of epilepsy in Zambia in their daily work. For instance, Times of Zambia journalist, Margaret Mangani, met a patient in Chifwema Village who had been suffering from epilepsy since she was four years old. A follow-up was made after national epilepsy day and more patients who have never been on anti-epileptic treatment were discovered in the same area.
Following the declaration of epilepsy week, on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation Television, by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr Simon Miti last August, all those involved heightened their activities by holding health talks, radio and TV interviews, epilepsy clinics and accessing the availability of anti-epileptic drugs in health institutions.
On National Epilepsy Day itself organizers, marchers, journalists and other participants gathered at the Ministry of Health headquarters to travel to Chongwe for the celebration at Chongwe District Health Centre.
Speeches were delivered by:
Mr Mulungu, Clinical Specialist, representing the Provincial Health Office;
The District Commissioner of Chongwe;
Dr Anthony Zimba, National GCAE Coordinator;
Dr Songolo on behalf of WHO Representative Dr Stella Anyangwe;
Dr Simpungwe, Director Clinical Care & Diagnostic Services – Ministry of Health, representing the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health.
A vote of thanks was made by Ms Kabemba Mwale a member of the Epilepsy Association of Zambia. Also in attendance was the former Minister of Health, Mrs Sylvia Masebo.
Holding this years main celebration in a rural setting made people with epilepsy in Chongwe feel accepted by society and those who attended the function requested continued care and accurate information about their epilepsy.As mentioned earlier, the Ministry of Health has been fully committed to sponsoring the activities of the campaign since its inception.
However, it is sad to note that the erratic supply of anti-epileptic drugs in the country became worse during our heightened campaign period, especially Phenobarbitone, which could not even be found in private pharmacies and chemists.
We believe that the increase in demand for epilepsy treatment lead to the shortage of drugs. Therefore, it is important for all those involved in the procurement and dispensing of anti-epileptic drugs to plan for adequate supplies of the drugs.