Dr Peg Cumberland has spent 20 years working in Mozambique, setting up community health projects under the Anglican diocese of Niassa, in remote rural areas with no functioning health services. Her involvement with epilepsy began in 2007 when she was approached by local people with epilepsy who were desperate for help.
Epilepsy affects 1 – 2 % of the population of Mozambique. Over 70% of people with epilepsy can have their seizures completely controlled or greatly reduced using inexpensive medicines but in Mozambique less than 5% of people with epilepsy are able to obtain treatment. The result, for both them and their families, can be devastating.
The erroneous belief that epilepsy is caused by curses or evil spirits results in stigma and rejection. People with epilepsy risk being drowned if they fall in the lake or river while fetching water, or burned if they fall in the fire. Children with epilepsy may be forced to leave school because of people’s misguided fear that they’ll pass the condition to their class mates. Those with prolonged untreated seizures are in danger of brain damage leading to severe disability.
In 2008, Peg started up a small epilepsy treatment project to serve a single district after discovering that in a province of 1.5 million people not a single health facility was providing effective epilepsy treatment. Before long people began coming from two or three days journey away. It was an impossible situation as they lacked the medicine and trained personnel to treat everyone. With great reluctance they had to turn people away.
In 2015, at the request of the MoH and the Niassa Provincial Health Department, Peg trained health staff and provided ongoing supervision to establish epilepsy treatment services in 5 of the Lago District’s health centres. She also trained 3 groups of 30 community activists to educate communities about epilepsy and encourage people with epilepsy to seek treatment. The 5 health centres now have a total of 310 people on epilepsy treatment and the number continues to rise.
During March 2016 – February 2017, the plans are to strengthen the existing work begun in 2015 and to provide it in other districts in partnership with the WHO and the Ministry of Health. But as always, funding is only partial.
In early June 2015, Peg cycled 1,000 miles in 14 days to raise funds for this innovative work. On 29th June, Peg and friends will cycle the length and height of Wales to raise more funds to enable it to grow. Follow their blog here. For more information please email [email protected] or click below to donate.