4Brain 4 Rwanda

Epilepsy is a common disorder of the brain characterized by the repeated and spontaneous occurrence of epileptic seizures. An epileptic seizure occurs due to a sudden, abnormal electrical discharge - a type of short circuit - at the level of the cerebral cortex that leads to a temporary change in perception, behavior or consciousness. Worldwide, 50 to 70 million people have epilepsy of whom 85% live in low- to middle-income countries. In Belgium, about 1 person in 100 suffers from epilepsy. In Rwanda, a low-income country in East Africa, 1 in 20 people suffer from epilepsy, a number that is 5 times higher.

Seizures of epilepsy can be caused by a wide variety of injuries such as injuries from a traffic accident, an infection in the brain, a disorder of the blood vessels, a difficult birth, a genetic defect... Underlying causes of epilepsy can differ between developed and developing countries. However, in Rwanda there is little knowledge regarding the causes of epilepsy. This knowledge, notwithstanding, could explain why there are so many people living with epilepsy in the country. Thus, research into the causes of epilepsy in Rwanda is essential.

In addition, there is still a lot of misinformation in Rwanda surrounding the condition which leads to stigmatization and discrimination. Many children with epilepsy do not attend school, adults remain unemployed, single and often live in extreme poverty, women are victims of abuse. Due in part to stigmatization, many people do not seek medical help resulting in 6 in 10 people not being diagnosed and 9 in 10 not receiving adequate treatment.


Given the high burden of epilepsy in Rwanda and the knowledge gap about the condition in the country, 4Brain developed a collaboration with several Rwandan partners including the tertiary neuropsychiatric hospital "CARAES Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Ndera," led by neurologist Fidèle Sebera, the University of Rwanda and several other local stakeholders. The goal of this collaboration is to improve access to high-quality neurological care for people with epilepsy in Rwanda through scientific research and local training of Rwandan neurologists.

Financial support allows the collaboration to continue ongoing research activities and initiate new research projects. In this way, we can reach more people living with epilepsy in Rwanda in order to provide them the necessary high-quality care. Recent research by the collaboration showed that just 25 euros can provide a Rwandan person living with epilepsy with the needed biomedical care for a year including consultations with healthcare professionals, medication and necessary technical examinations.

Due to the funding obtained from previous 4Brain events, the Rwandan neurologists in spe are now affiliated with Ghent University and thereby they obtain access to all scientific databases such as Pubmed. Also, Dr. Ieme Garrez, a 4Brain PhD student investigating the prevalence of epilepsy in Rwanda, recently wrote a EOS article about here research. Discover the article here. Also, some scientific papers were published (Teuwen et al., 2023: Epilepsy-Related Direct Medical and Direct Non-Medical Cost in Adult Patients Living with Epilepsy at a Tertiary Neurology Center in Rwanda, Sebera et al., 2023: Association of depression and epilepsy in Rwanda: A prospective longitudinal study