Group Seeks Measures To Make Nigeria Leprosy-free

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LAVORARE PER: WHO-World Health Organization (OMS-Organizzazione ...

Stakeholders in the health sector on Wednesday called for deliberate measures to kick out leprosy from Nigeria.

They made the call at a one-day Symposium on World Leprosy Day with the theme: “The Multi-Dimensional Impact of Leprosy on the Sufferers: The Need to have the Conversation Now” in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that leprosy is a curable infectious disease mainly causing skin lesions and nerve damage.

The National Coordinator, National Tuberculosis, Buruli Ulcer and Leprosy Control Programme, Dr. Chukwuma Anyaike, said that there was need for Nigeria to join the global community to kick out leprosy from the country.

This, according to him, was because of its effects not just on adults but also on children.

Anyaike said: “This is very embarrassing; whenever you see an infection or a disease affecting the children, that means that there is an active spread of the disease.

“People tend to run away from leprosy, and it comes with a lot of misinformation. Some say that it is due to punishment from God or due to voodoo.

“So, there is so much stigma and discrimination attached to it, and our priority is to engage the communities; that is the sure way of getting the right information and reduce stigma and discrimination.

“There are several things attached to stigma and discrimination: First on the list is social exclusion, it comes with poverty and all because they don’t come out among people.”

Anyaike said that the group strongly believed that if leprosy was kicked out it would contribute majorly towards achieving sustainable development goals as a country.

The Country Director, The Leprosy Mission Nigeria (TLMN), Dr. Sunday Udo, said: “Leprosy is really not getting much attention in Nigeria like other diseases, probably because it affects the poorest of the poor.”

Udo said that the symposium was put together to mark the World Leprosy Day was aimed at creating awareness on the disease and know how far the country had fared and the way forward.

“That is why TLMN, and other lead agencies are really poised to ensure that we don’t neglect or leave them; we support them and work with them to improve their lives and ultimately defeat leprosy.

“We have a drug called prophylaxis. It is a drug that we can give to anybody who comes in contact with leprosy and then within two years, you are protected.

“So, every two years, you get a pill that will protect you from catching the disease.

“Now, we want the government to be able to pick up this particular intervention and make it national,” he said.

The Board Chairperson, TLMN, Mrs. Nella Andem-Rabana, SAN, said that leprosy was curable, adding, 2but because it is not known on time, it leaves indelible marks on people.

“The popular belief that leprosy is caused because of people’s sins or as a result of curse is false.

“It is peripheral; it’s on the skin around the nose region. It is curable, but, if you leave it too long, they can really deform you then people will begin to segregate.”

Andem-Rabana advised people to stop living by speculation and build their knowledge on how to tackle the disease so as to help themselves and those around them.

“If the rest of the world has eradicated leprosy, we can do it too and I think we should do it now,” she said.

The National Leprosy Goodwill Ambassador, Chief Chika Okpala. also known as Chief Zebrudaya of the Masquerade and the New Masquerade NTA sitcoms fame, called for the need to intensify sensitisation on the disease.

Okpala said: “If people are properly educated on the disease, then it would stop this stigmatisation that is rampant in Nigeria.”

He said that there was need for the government to take deliberate steps to tackle the disease, adding a lot needed to be done to eradicate the misconceptions around the disease.

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