Roughly 80 per cent of people diagnosed with epilepsy live in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, over 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, making it the third most common neurological disorder.
In Nepal, a country of 27.5 million people, approximately 30,000 people have sought treatment for seizure disorders, but there are thousands of Nepalese who have epilepsy that are still unaware and have not received treatment. Most people who have epilepsy live in remote areas of the country and are often illiterate, making it difficult for them to learn about the symptoms, causes and treatment of the disorder.
People with epilepsy suffer from discrimination and stigma globally, which is often a result from a lack of awareness. Many Nepalese believe that someone who is having a seizure is possessed, or that the “illness” is contagious. They often seek help from rural shamans, or jhakris, before going to a city to get help from doctors who can prescribe them modern medicine.
Due to Nepal’s rolling blackouts, specialized testing such as EEGs and MRIs can only be conducted at certain times of the day. Their machines are outdated and medical facilities are unsanitary, while access to medication is limited.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Hemav Rajbhandari, along with his teams of volunteers, are doing everything they can to help epileptic patients at the clinics he looks after in Kathmandu, Dolakha, and Pokhara. They rely heavily on private funding, particularly from Germany and South Korea, to keep the clinics in operation and medicine in stock.
Through this photo documentary, I hope to increase awareness and assist to combat the stigma around epilepsy.