Epigraph Vol. 22 Issue 5, Fall 2020

Tackling the challenge of raising epilepsy awareness in Africa

Epilepsy advocate Fredrick Beuchi challenged himself and a team of friends and colleagues to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, as a way to increase epilepsy awareness. After months of training and a flurry of radio and TV interviews, the group set out from Nairobi on November 17, cycling to Arusha, Tanzania and starting their climb. They summited November 26, planting a flag that displays a message that Beuchi continues to spread: Epilepsy is manageable.

Angelina Kakooza
Angelina Kakooza

ILAE-Africa Chair, Angelina Kakooza-Mwesige, encourages others to join Beuchi’s quest for a seizure-smart Africa.

She writes:

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that approximately 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, 80% of whom live in low- and middle-income countries. Overall, the sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) region alone is estimated to be home to at least 10 million people with epilepsy. With effective treatment, approximately 7 million of them could be seizure free. Unfortunately, epilepsy awareness in the region is very low, and most people do not have access to treatment.

Fredrick Beuchi is a resident of Kilifi in Kenya and founding member of the Foundation for People with Epilepsy (FPE), a provisional chapter of the International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE). He and his team set out in November 2020 to raise awareness about epilepsy. Fredrick has helped to care for his younger sister, who has epilepsy, and has experienced first-hand the social stigma, irregular medication supply, and low community awareness surrounding the disease.

Frederick Beuchi
Frederick Beuchi

Beuchi’s Mt. Kilimanjaro Epilepsy Awareness Challenge included a cycling challenge (Nairobi-Namanga-Arusha-Moshi route) and a summiting of Mt. Kilimanjaro, via the Machame route. ILAE-Africa was proud to partner with Fredrick and his team as they helped work toward a “seizure smart Africa.”

Kilimanjaro is a difficult mountain to climb; such a challenge called for physical and mental conditioning. ILAE-Africa congratulates Fredrick and his team for rising to the challenge. Not only did they have an experience of a lifetime, but they also raised epilepsy awareness: locally, across Africa, and beyond.

To quote Mozambican politician and humanitarian, Honorary British Dame Graca Machel,

Kilimanjaro climb day 3, looking toward summit

My challenge to each of you is that you ask yourself what you can do to make a difference. And then take that action, no matter how large or how small.” We have been challenged by Fredrick and team. What can we do in our own unique circumstances to tackle the inevitable challenge of raising epilepsy awareness in the region? We all must work toward a world where no person's life is limited by epilepsy.

Dr. Angelina Kakooza- Mwesige

Chair, ILAE-Africa

FPE’s Facebook page

Kenya’s National Epilepsy Coordination Committee

Photos from the Mt. Kilimanjaro Epilepsy Awareness Challenge

Click on photos to view at larger size and scroll through the gallery.