The first day of the IBE Africa Epilepsy Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, encompassed a diverse array of discussions revolving around the pivotal theme of “Stamping Epilepsy Stigma Out of Africa”. The morning sessions were distinguished by keynote addresses delivered by international and African epilepsy experts. These presentations underscored the critical significance of political engagement, comprehensive data collection, and collaborative endeavors aimed at realizing the Intersectoral Global Action Plan (IGAP) on epilepsy. Key focal points included the imperative of forging strategic partnerships, elucidating and streamlining IGAP, and devising methodologies to bridge existing treatment and inclusion gaps.

During the afternoon sessions, the discourse pivoted towards the exploration of discriminatory legislation, particularly examining the marriage laws in Uganda and Tanzania. Notably, it was highlighted that individuals impacted by epilepsy often grapple with reluctance in openly addressing such legislative issues. Authorities expressed a preference for direct communication from affected individuals as opposed to their caregivers. Integral strategies for success encompassed fostering collaborations with human rights advocates, capacitating diverse stakeholders, and engaging traditional and faith healers.

Recommendations were put forth to empower the youth in supporting epilepsy groups, scrutinizing epilepsy-related legislation within each nation, and establishing educational pathways to ensure the unimpeded access of children with epilepsy to educational institutions. A notable example was presented from Sierra Leone where school authorities are mandated to endorse documentation facilitating the continuous education of children with epilepsy.

Furthermore, the session dedicated to fostering intersectoral alliances entailed deliberations with representatives from Care Epilepsy, CDC Africa, and the WHO Ethiopia Office. The focal point was on ensuring that the implementation of IGAP is multifaceted, person-centric, and grounded in empirical evidence. CDC advocated for collaborative efforts with Ministries of Health in the execution of IGAP. Emphasis was laid on meticulous stakeholder engagement, ensuring effective leadership and guidance throughout the process

In addressing the sustainability of IGAP, the discussion centered on analyzing the program’s sustainability, formulating mechanisms to achieve its objectives, piloting projects for broader applicability, and drawing insights from successful action plans, akin to those devised for combating HIV. The crucial need to prioritize attainable objectives for individual countries was strongly emphasized.
In summary, the proceedings of the conference’s inaugural day underscored the imperative for collaborative, inclusive, and strategic approaches in tackling epilepsy in Africa. The discussions fervently advocated for upholding human rights, formulating robust policies, and ensuring the enduring and sustainable execution of action plans.

More details can be found by reading the full conference report here

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