Handicap International – Madagascar
January 2017 marked the launch of UCB’s collaboration with Handicap International of Madagascar (HI) with the objective of rolling out an epilepsy awareness program in 14 villages in four districts in the Boeny and Analanjirofo regions. HI’s primary objective is to build selected activities so that communities will better understand epilepsy and the causes of this chronic disease, and be able to embrace people living with epilepsy often excluded and stigmatized. The program will also build education platforms for school teachers and engage young children in understanding their friends living with epilepsy, thereby improving their inclusion.
As the project is in its infancy, a significant amount of groundwork first needed to be laid, in order to be able to begin with the implementation of the program. It included an endorsement by the Ministry of Health and local governmental authorities. After identifying and informing selected communities of the forthcoming epilepsy project, recruitment and training of staff were initiated.
In parallel to the roll-out of the epilepsy awareness campaign, HI is also launching a study on the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of the Malagasy population and health care professionals with regards to epilepsy in general. The outcomes of this study will serve as the basis for the implementation of the project, since it claims to increase knowledge, and to bring about positive changes in attitudes and practices regarding epilepsy.
During the first phase of the project, HI experienced a number of challenges. Rough terrain, remoteness of villages, limited number of health care professionals and village doctors, as well as, an outbreak of the plague in the second half of 2017, impacted the roll-out of the program.