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Belief in witchcraft hinders treatment of epilepsy - official

Condition can be managed well with drugs

In Summary

• Many epilepsy patients in Kitui seek help from witchdoctors.

• 4,000 patients were treated for epilepsy in Kitui in 2018.

Kitui county health director Allam Owino flags of the Angaza Kifafa caravan at Kitui Referral Hospital on Thursday, May 2
IT'S NOT WITCHCRAFT: Kitui county health director Allam Owino flags of the Angaza Kifafa caravan at Kitui Referral Hospital on Thursday, May 2
Image: MUSESMBI NZENGU

The widespread belief that epilepsy is caused by witchcraft has made many people in Kitui live with the treatable condition for a lifetime, a county medical official has said.

Allan Owino, Kitui county director of health, said it was regrettable that although epilepsy is a treatable medical condition that can be well managed through drugs, many patients seek the help of witchdoctors to no avail.

“Going to witchdoctors only prolongs the suffering of people who suffer from epilepsy because they cannot treat it. It is a medical condition that we can use drugs to treat in medical facilities in our county,” he said.

Owino spoke when he flagged off an epilepsy campaign caravan at the Kitui county referral hospital. The caravan to create awareness on epilepsy is sponsored by the county government, the National Epilepsy Council and the Bank of Africa.

The ceremony was attended by the NEC vice chairman Teddy Chengo and the Bank of Africa PR manager Catherine Awour.

Owino said that despite the negative myths associated with epilepsy, 4,000 people underwent treatment for the illness in health facilities in Kitui last year. He said with public awareness, he was optimistic many more patients will come out to seek treatment.

Chengo said that the epilepsy awareness campaign has been carried out in Kenya in the last five years and has had a positive impact. He said that many epileptic patients have been seeking treatment and a guideline for epilepsy treatment is available in Kenyan health facilities.

The official said that contrary to the old-fashioned belief that epilepsy was not curable, when patients are put on drugs the condition could be managed to the point where one is able to live a normal life.

Chengo said according to a Kemri report one in every hundred Kenyans suffers from epilepsy.

The Bank of Africa financially supported the epilepsy awareness campaign as a corporate social responsibility initiative.  PR manager Awuor said it was impressive that positive results have been noted in the 16 counties that have had the Angaza Kifafa awareness campaign caravan.