Skills Audit minister Paul Mavima

Zim disability policy enhances health of persons with epilepsy

THE government has enhanced the health and well-being of persons with epilepsy by including them in the National Disability Policy launched two years, a cabinet minister has said.

Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Professor Paul Mavima said this in a speech ready on his behalf by national director of Disability Affairs, Dr Christine Peta during commemorations to mark International Epilepsy Day.

The commemorations were held at the Epilepsy Support Foundation (ESF) offices in Hatfield in the capital at the weekend. Mavima said the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of Africa’s 10 million people with epilepsy were treated with readily available modern medicine.

He said most of the causes of the symptomatic epilepsy in Zimbabwe could be greatly reduced with treatment and raising awareness in communities.

“Yet epilepsy continues to take its toll amongst our people causing impaired physical, psychological and social functioning of those affected, and equally serious psychological, social and economic consequences for their families,” he said.

“That is so because the social stigma attached to the epilepsy in Africa, results in persons with epilepsy and their families shying away from seeking medical attention.”

Many people in Africa, including in Zimbabwe, believe that epilepsy is caused by witchcraft and sorcery, and that traditional treatments that take place privately in homes and communities are the only way to treat it.

The National Disability Policy recognises that medications assist in normalising the daily living of persons with epilepsy and should be part of inclusive budgeting.

It also recognises that partnerships between the Ministries of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and Health and Child Care, the ESF, the World Health Organisation, the Zimbabwe League Against Epilepsy should be strengthened to conduct research on epilepsy in Zimbabwe and come up with evidence based programmes.

The policy also recognises the need to have accurate and up to date statistics on persons with epilepsy in the country.

Mavima said his Ministry offered services to persons with disabilities that include payment of vocational training fees, access to health care in public health care institutions through the assisted medical treatment order (AMTO), assistive technologies, economic empowerment loans, per capita and administration grants.

It also assisted through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) under which fees are paid from ECD to “A” level including for learners in special schools, tertiary education including in universities and social cash transfers.

The International Epilepsy Day is aimed at raising awareness on the condition and for stakeholders to deliberate and take action on the availability of medicines and undertake research into the health and social care response to epilepsy. — New Ziana

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