In this week’s edition of IBE’s Meet the Chapter series, Max A. Bangura, Executive Director of the Epilepsy Association of Sierra Leone (EASL), introduces us to the work of his organisation.
The Epilepsy Association of Sierra Leone (EASL) is an Indigenous community Based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that was formed in 1999, registered with the Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Social Welfare Gender and Children’s Affairs (MSWGCA/112/19) in 2000 and joined the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE) on the 31st of August 2005. EASL was established to debunk the myths attached to epilepsy by creating a society where everyone understands epilepsy, where attitudes towards the disease are based on facts rather than fiction, and to respond to the desperate need for medication, social care and reintegration of people living with epilepsy that face exclusion and isolation in Sierra Leone.
PROGRAMMES AND ACTIVITIES:
The Epilepsy Association of Sierra Leone (EASL) supports programmes at national and local levels to improve quality of life of persons with epilepsy. Since 1999 EASL has provided regular services to patients with epilepsy and their families in the area of Information and Referral services, Information and Education, advocacy programmes and livelihood promotions for their independence. The National office of the Association works with its affiliates, such as the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Ministry of Education, City councils, District health management teams and NGOs to provide local services and a variety of educational, researches, legislative and other programmes. The programme offered by these groups varies depending on local needs and support.
a) Information and referral services:
EASL offers a help-line number (+232 88 555 333) to provide information and referrals to appropriate treatment centres across Sierra Leona. The Association provides information on a wide range of epilepsy related topics and on local resources. Educational materials such as Handbook for Health Workers and EASL Newsletters are produced as educational materials. The Association has trained 13 social workers (Epilepsy Support Workers) and positioned them in all districts to carry out awareness raising activities in churches, mosques and schools situated in their locations.
b) Advocacy programs
The Association’s advocacy programme helps fight discrimination; promoting rights in areas such as: access to health care, education and empowerment support for independent living via skills training and groundnut cultivation (in agriculture). EASL network with sister-related institutions in support of essential government programmes related to the needs of people with epilepsy.
c) The Internet and media houses:
The Epilepsy Associations website (www.epilepsyassocsl.org) and contact email ( [email protected]) offers information for individuals, families and the general public to learn more about epilepsy issues and their treatment. Jingles and TV adverts are aired on different media houses nationwide reminding people where to seek medication within their localities.