The journey to epilepsy care and treatment in Mozambique
In a country where more than one 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 Nampula province in Mozambique, has witnessed this journey for over 6 years.
Epilepsy care was part of Maria Augusta’s study curriculum to become a nurse in Portugal and she completed an internship in a psychiatric hospital. She feels confident to diagnose and treat the condition. The last time the district’s health care facilities had anti-epileptic medicines available, she was able to provide care for people with epilepsy even without the support of a psychiatric technician.
Most of the time, however, anti-epileptic medicines are not readily available in public health centres in Mozambique. The absence of basic medication in the public sector prevents health care providers like Maria Augusta from helping people with epilepsy effectively. Maria Augusta also knows that when medication is available, many patients often do not take it regularly as prescribed.
A lack of anti-epileptic medicines is not the only challenge Maria Augusta faces in Mozambique’s official healthcare system. Too often, she has seen parents of children with epilepsy turn to medical care only when traditional healers either failed to improve their child’s condition or worsened it. Why? In Mozambique, many people think epilepsy is the result of witchcraft.
The Mozambique Epilepsy Initiative team, part of the WHO Programme on Reducing the Epilepsy Treatment Gap, has therefore involved traditional and faith healers and religious leaders from the Christian, Hindu and Muslim faiths in the initiative. The project team is also training healthcare workers and advocating for an improved scheme that will ensure the regular availability of basic anti-epileptic medicines. This means that nurses like Maria Augusta, and other health care providers, will be able to offer safe and effective epilepsy treatment in the future, improving the journey to health of people with epilepsy in Mozambique.