Sierra Leone: More than 70,000 People have Epilepsy

By Stephen V. Lansana

More than 70,000 people in Sierra Leone have epilepsy, a senior health official said last Thursday.

Consultant Neurologist and Coordinator of Epilepsy Programme, Professor Radcliffe Lisk, said the 70,000 people with the disease represent one percent of the population of Sierra Leone.

He made this disclosure at a two-day training held in Freetown for healthcare workers across the country. “Majority of the epilepsy patients are young people,” he said.

Professor Lisk said two third of the 70,000 people that have epilepsy usually go to traditional healers for treatment, because they claim that their condition is as a result of witchcraft.

“Ninety percent of patients do not visit the clinic at the first time of their epilepsy. Only 11.8 percent of cases of epilepsy sought hospital care immediately,” he said.

He disclosed that the treatment gap is very high, adding that about 80 percent of patients do not get proper treatment. “We are trying to reduce the treatment gap,” Professor Lisk said.

He further said epilepsy has high mortality rate, adding that the people with the disease are 1.6 to 9.6 times more likely to die.

He also said that they are constraint to get medication to patients because of lack of manpower. He added that that is why they are training health workers across the country.

The Consultant Neurologist said they have trained over 1,500 health workers on epilepsy over the past five years.

He asserted that all the research undertaken at global level indicate that epilepsy is more prevalent in developing countries. In giving the reason for this prevalence, he said that birth trauma, febrile convulsion, meningitis/encephalitis, trauma, alcohol abuse and cerebral malaria in children are the predominate factors responsible for the high rate of epilepsy in developing countries. He said that some of these factors are common in Sierra Leone.