In the Central African Republic, in Bangui, the Clinique DREAM, of the Community of Sant’Egidio, has been committed since the beginning of its activity to guarantee free medical care for HIV/AIDS, epilepsy, asthma, hypertension and diabetes. In particular, the Clinique has taken care of a large group of children suffering from epilepsy, a disease that is very widespread in the country in the younger age group.
Epilepsy is a chronic brain disease that, according to the WHO, affects 50 million people worldwide, 80% of whom live in low-income countries. More than one third of all epilepsy-related deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa. A large majority of epilepsy patients in Africa do not have access to treatment and there is an average of 1 neurologist for every 3-5 million people.
In order to guarantee medical assistance and access to treatment for children with epilepsy in Central Africa, the Community of Sant’Egidio’s Dream programme, thanks to the support of the Mariani Foundation and the Istituto Neurologico Besta in Milan, has been able to train healthcare personnel in the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. In addition, the Italian Society of Neurology has donated to DREAM a video-electroencephalograph that allows clinicians to have a second opinion remotely through a telemedicine system. Clinique DREAM has now become the reference centre for epileptic patients in the country.
Davila’s story. A “contagious cure
The treatment of epilepsy, which in high-income countries is now commonplace and well established, allows us to free lives that would otherwise be trapped in the disease and write true stories of resurrection.
This is what happened to Davila. We met her two years ago, she was 16 years old, from a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Bangui. She had had a very difficult childhood because of epilepsy. Her mother immediately told us how the whole family’s life had been turned upside down when the girl had her first epileptic seizures. In Africa there is a widespread belief that epilepsy is a curse, not a disease, but a witchcraft that takes possession of people’s bodies, making it dangerous to approach them. So Davila has been subjected over the years to violent rituals and strange dietary regimes. The family was isolated from the rest of the neighbourhood and relatives, while for years the young Davila continued to have convulsions, even more than six seizures a day, getting worse and worse.
At the beginning of 2020, she was admitted to hospital in a very serious condition. It was here that her mother discovered that a clinic had opened in Bangui that could help her daughter, Clinique DREAM. In less than two years of treatment for epilepsy, the seizures disappeared, Davila started to go out of the house, she was no longer afraid of others and others were no longer afraid of her. This year she started going to school, and – at 18 – learning to read and write. It is like a new life, hope has returned and it has been a real revolution not only for the family but for the whole neighbourhood.
On Saturdays, at the Sant’Egidio School of Peace, Davila proudly shows her notebooks with her first progress in literacy. Mum has started to be an activist for DREAM, talking to the mothers of other epileptic children, testifying that there is a cure and another future for their children. Every day, many knock on the clinic door and ask for medicine and hope for a cure.