Myat Thida, a bright student in Hmawbi Township, Myanmar, had her first seizure in the 9th grade. Her seizures became so frequent and severe that she never completed her high school education. Her father, now her sole caregiver, is pleased that the Township is participating in the Epilepsy Initiative, part of the WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap, because he can now obtain anti-epileptic medications close to his home.
In a country where more than a quarter of a million people live with epilepsy, seeking and receiving care and treatment for the condition can be a long and complex journey. Maria Augusta Alves Vilas Boas, a nurse at the Ituculo Health Centre in Monapo district of Mozambique’s Nampula province, has witnessed this journey for over six years.
An estimated 90% of people who develop epilepsy in Ghana first seek treatment from traditional and faith healers like Stephen Kontoh, a faith healer in Ghana’s Central Region. Stephen runs a prayer camp close to a community health clinic where the WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap is being implemented. The WHO Programme has involved Stephen and other traditional healers in Ghana to understand that epilepsy is a non-contagious, chronic brain disorder, and importantly, to refer people with epilepsy to health care clinics for treatment.
Epilepsy: Treat it. Defeat it.
More than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy. To help defeat the disorder, the WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap seeks to expand the skills of primary care, non-specialist health care providers to diagnose, treat and follow up with people with epilepsy. The Programme engages in health system strengthening, improving the availability of antiepileptic medicines and awareness-raising about epilepsy among different stakeholders such as policymakers, health care providers, people with epilepsy and their families, NGOs, and the general public. The Programme is currently being implemented in 4 countries: Ghana, Mozambique, Myanmar and Viet Nam.
In Timor Leste, “People used to be afraid of people with epilepsy and called them ‘crazy’ because they didn’t know about epilepsy,” recalls Manuela Antonia Jimenez, a 57-year old clinical nurse in Lequidoe. “Now there is information, medication and treatment and this helps families and patients to live a normal life.”
WHO, in partnership with the International League against Epilepsy (ILAE) and the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE), launched the "Global Campaign against Epilepsy:Out of the Shadows" in 1997 to improve acceptability, treatment, services and prevention of epilepsy worldwide. Several demonstration projects worldwide were carried out and regional declarations were signed.
50 millionMore than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy.Fact sheet
3/4Three fourths of affected people in developing countries do not get treatment.Fact sheet
80% Nearly 80% of the people with epilepsy are found in developing regions.Fact sheet
Epilepsy is the most common chronic brain disorder globally and affects people of all ages. More than 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy and 80% of them live in developing countries.
With treatment, an estimated 70% of people with epilepsy can be seizure free, yet about three fourths of people in developing countries do not get the treatment they need. Furthermore, people with epilepsy and their families frequently suffer from stigma and discrimination.
WHO is working with partners and stakeholders to improve access to epilepsy care.