Representatives from IBE and Epilepsy Association of Malawi Pose for a Picture
IBE Vice President Action Amos tell his story and Welcomes the Minister of Health Hon. Khumbize Chipondaon the IBE Africa Pavilion
IBE Africa Communications Officer Moses Nderemani takes the minister through some of the activities IBE Africa has been involved in
National Epilepsy Association of Malawi Coordinator Chifundo Zamadunga Phiri delivers her speech

Epilepsy is a significant health concern in Malawi, a country in south-eastern Africa. It is estimated that around 700,000 people in Malawi live with epilepsy.

Stigma and discrimination against people with epilepsy are prevalent in Malawi, and many believe that the condition is caused by witchcraft or a curse. This misconception leads to fear, exclusion, and discrimination towards those with epilepsy, which in turn hinders access to appropriate medical care and support.

The story of 20-year-old Hadija is an example of the challenges that people with epilepsy face in Malawi. Hadija was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was just 12 years old. Her condition made it difficult for her to attend school, and she was often teased and ostracized by her peers. Hadija’s family also faced discrimination and were isolated from the community.

Minister of Health Honorable Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, MP presided over this year’s International Day of Epilepsy Commemoration as the guest of honour. The function was held on 16th February 2023 at Cholwe Primary School in Ntchisi.

This year’s commemoration was themed ‘’Stamp out Stigma! End Stigma!’’

The commemoration focused on raising awareness about epilepsy and encouraging the masses to refrain from discriminating people suffering from epilepsy like Hadija.

Speaking at the commemoration, The Health Minister, Hon. Chiponda urged Malawians to stop stigmatising people with epilepsy by showing love to people suffering from epilepsy and encouraging them to take medication.

‘As government we will try our best to make sure that all the district hospitals in Malawi have all the medicine for epilepsy but also we are encouraging district hospitals to have reach out clinics keeping in mind that some people stay far away from district hospitals and they are unable to access the medicine,’’ Said Hon Chiponda

On measures put in place to combat stigma, Hon Chiponda, says government is conducting health education and community engagement.

‘We are encouraging health education and community engagement. It is a collective responsibility and we are asking everyone, all the constituencies, the media, the traditional leaders, the faith leaders and everyone that they have the role to play. We need everyone to come in and speak with one voice to stop the stigmatisation of people with epilepsy.’ said Hon. Chiponda.

As a demonstration that people with epilepsy can live a normal life when they are not discriminated, the minister invited epilepsy ambassadors, which comprised of men, women, boys and girls who defied the odds by building successful careers while living with epilepsy.

Another dignitary that presided over the event was the Member of Parliament for Ntchisi South Constituency, Honourable Ulemu Chilapondwa. In his remarks he said it is unfortunate that some people’s stigma of persons with epilepsy has reached extreme levels such as locking family members inside the house and not feeding them and ignoring the need to help them access treatment that is readily available in hospitals across the country.

Honourable Chilapondwa also urged chiefs to help mobilise their community members into assisting their family members to access treatment.

Another encouraging message came from the coordinator of the National Epilepsy Association, Chifundo Zamadunga Phiri who is also one of the people living with epilepsy yet successful in her career due to proper treatment and medication.

In her speech, she cited lack of knowledge of epilepsy as one of the root causes of stigma and emphasised that massive awareness can help reduce the stigma. She also added that availability of drugs in all hospitals across the country can play a great role in combating the illness.

Among others who patronised the event were teams of representatives from Warriors Foundation, Zomba Mental hospital, Ntchisi District hospital,  National Epilepsy Association of Malawi and International Bureau of Epilepsy Africa

On the other hand, apart from speeches from various dignitaries there were a myriad of creative and entertaining activities that graced the event filled with informative anti-epilepsy stigma. The activities included music from the Health Education Band, Gule Wamkulu dances, Cholwa chimtali dancers, comedies among others.

While progress is being made, much work remains to be done to address the challenges faced by people with epilepsy in Malawi. Greater education and awareness are needed to combat stigma and discrimination and to ensure that those with epilepsy can access the medical care and support they need to live healthy and fulfilling lives.