Nepal is a beautiful country, famous for its stunning Himalaya, rich culture and generous hospitality. In a country that is only 65% the size of Victoria, its population is greater than all of Australia! Yet, there are less than twenty neurologists in the whole country. A significant percentage of people live in poverty, and most people are dependent on agriculture for a living. For those living with epilepsy, access to specialist support, medication and community understanding of this highly stigmatized condition, life can be very isolating and overwhelming.
A partnership between the Epilepsy Foundation of Victoria (EFV) and the Nepal Epilepsy Association (NEA) has recently seen Janita Keating, Education and Training Manager, EFV and Hemav Rajbhandari, Vice President NEA develop and deliver epilepsy education to teachers and health workers in the remote village of Nangi in the Myagdi District of West Nepal.
The training focused on emphasising that epilepsy is a medical condition that should be treated by a doctor (not a sharman or witch doctor); that epilepsy is not contagious; that when correctly diagnosed and treated by the appropriate medications seizures can, in 70% of cases, be well controlled; seizures are not the result of punishment or bad gods; and how to appropriately support the person during and after a seizure. Five health workers and thirty teachers attended the sessions, with one health worker walking nine hours by foot to attend. Pictorial resources were distributed to the health workers to better enable them to continue the educative process with newly diagnosed villagers. Linkages with NEA were established, so that any future questions or referrals can be addressed via telemedicine communications. Feedback from health workers and teachers was very positive.
The video entitled “Juneli” a Nepali Documentary Drama, based on a true epilepsy story was produced by Nepal Epilepsy Association (NEA) and shown to all participants and interested villagers. It can be viewed on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2K96GQnjgU
The experience has highlighted international epilepsy organisations can be for both countries. Future joint EFV and NEA outreach epilepsy clinics in West Nepal are planned for September 2013.