Epilepsy 'Treatment Gap' In Sierra Leone A Result Of Stigma, Lack Of Resources, Experts Say

In Sierra Leone, “one of Africa’s poorest countries, … scarce health care resources and the stigma surrounding epilepsy add up to a ‘treatment gap’ of more than 90 percent — meaning that fewer than 10 percent of the estimated 60,000 to 100,000 Sierra Leoneans with epilepsy are getting the treatment they need,” the New York Times reports. “Epilepsy treatment gaps are driven largely by low income and rural location, making sub-Saharan Africa a treatment-gap hot spot. Treatment in Sierra Leone is not expensive,” but “[t]he costs of untreated epilepsy, on the other hand, are enormous, especially in lost productivity,” the newspaper writes.

As a result of stigma, which in Sierra Leone is based on the myths “that epilepsy is contagious and that it is caused by demonic possession, … [n]early half of Sierra Leonean children with epilepsy drop out of school once their condition is discovered,” the newspaper reports, adding that “people with epilepsy are often considered uneducable, unemployable and unmarriageable” in the country.  “[E]pilepsy affects 50 million people worldwide, and according to the World Health Organization, nearly 90 percent of people with epilepsy live in developing countries,” according to the New York Times (Baruchin, 8/29).