The first day of the IBE Africa Epilepsy Conference featured a range of discussions centered around the theme of addressing epilepsy in Africa. The morning sessions included key addresses from international and African epilepsy experts, emphasizing the importance of political engagement, data collection, and collaboration for the implementation of the Intersectoral Global Action Plan (IGAP) on epilepsy. There was a specific focus on partnerships, defining and simplifying IGAP, and strategies for closing treatment and inclusion gaps.
In the afternoon session, the focus shifted to addressing discriminatory legislation, particularly in relation to marriage laws in Uganda and Tanzania. It was highlighted that people affected by epilepsy often hesitate to speak openly about such legislation. Authorities expressed a preference for direct communication from affected individuals rather than caregivers. Key strategies for success included working with human rights defenders, capacity building for various stakeholders, and collaboration with traditional and faith healers.
Advice was offered to build capacity among youth to support epilepsy groups, analyze epilepsy-related legislation in each country, and establish educational pathways to ensure that children with epilepsy are not excluded from schools. For instance, in Sierra Leone, school authorities are required to sign a document allowing the continuation of education for children with epilepsy.
The session on building intersectoral alliances included discussions with representatives from Care Epilepsy, CDC Africa, and the WHO Ethiopia Office. The emphasis was on ensuring that IGAP implementation is multi-sectoral, person-centered, and evidence-informed. CDC advised on collaborating with Ministries of Health for IGAP implementation. Caution was advised in stakeholder engagement to ensure they are effectively led and guided.
Regarding the sustainability of IGAP, it was suggested to first analyze the sustainability of the program, develop mechanisms to achieve goals, pilot projects for broader applicability, and learn from other successful action plans like those for HIV. Prioritizing achievable objectives for each country was also stressed.
Overall, the conference’s first day highlighted the need for collaborative, inclusive, and strategic approaches to address epilepsy in Africa, with a focus on human rights, policy, and sustainable implementation of action plans.