The eagerly awaited launch of the regional report Epilepsy in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region Bridging the Gap took place during the 2nd East Mediterranean Epilepsy Congress in Dubai at the beginning of March. Both Global Campaign co chairs Prof Nico Moshé (ILAE) and Mr Mike Glynn (IBE) were in attendance while the WHO was represented by Dr Tarun Dua from Head Office in Geneva and Dr Khalid Saaed, Regional Advisor for Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Other participants included members of the IBE Eastern Mediterranean Regional Committee and ILAE Commission on Eastern Mediterranean Affairs, as well as Mrs Hanneke de Boer, Global Campaign coordinator.
Speaking at the launch, Dr Tarun Dua stated that no developmental projects on the condition were being carried out in the region at the present time.
Treatment guidelines have been formulated but complex beliefs surrounding the condition prevent people from seeking treatment, she added.
Experts from the regional office of the World Health Organisation said that epilepsy treatment should be integrated in primary healthcare systems in all countries.
Epilepsy affects an estimated 4.7 million people in the region. Despite the fact that treatment can cost as little as 30 US cent, up to 98% of people with epilepsy are unable to benefit in some countries in the region..
Epilepsy, a common neurological disorder, is a target of enduring myths which have shaped social and cultural attitudes and practices. Such myths continue to survive, and contribute in no small measure to the stigma and discrimination faced by people affected by epilepsy and their families. This, in turn, feeds into a vicious circle, where affected individuals and their families do not access treatment, even if it is available, said Dr Khalid Saeed.
The report brings together, for the first time, all the available evidence from the region on the epidemiology, etiology and management of epilepsy. Trauma was assessed as the reason behind the most frequently reported cause of epilepsy in the region. This was followed by infections and tumours.
Lack of resources and qualified staff also hampers treatment, added Dr Saeed.