Biblically, the Israelites were commanded to “send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body” – Numbers 5:2. This act like the hot scorching sun, has continued to live on till this day: Leprosy patients are discriminated, and secluded from others.
What is Leprosy?
According to the World Health Organisation, Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that is caused by a type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae). It commonly causes severe nerve damage and disfiguring pale-coloured skin sores on the arms and legs.
Medical New Today refers to Leprosy as Hansen’s disease, once known as leprosy, is a bacterial infection that affects the nervous system, skin, nose, and eyes. It is curable. But without early treatment, it can cause irreversible damage.
WHO reports that the bacteria that causes Leprosy most likely transmit through droplets from the nose and mouth during close, frequent contact with a person who has untreated Hansen’s disease.
Symptoms of leprosy may occur within one year but can also take as long as 20 years or even more to occur. However, the disease is curable.
In 90% of people with Hansen’s disease, the first noticeable symptom is numbness. This loss of sensation may begin several years before skin changes occur, and it normally concerns:
- light touch and pain
- deep pressure
The numbness can increase the risk of injuries and infections.
Leprosy in Uganda
The presence of Leprosy in Uganda like other diseases that ravaged the country led to various stakeholders teaming up to have an end to it. These included among others, the Government itself, the Church, and Non-Governmental Organisations ( NGOs)
On October 30 last year, during the 110th Anniversary of the birth of Wanda Blenska – a Physician and Missionary known as the “Mother of Lepers,” Church in Poland tweeted remembering her for her service of over 40 years to those most seriously ill with Leprosy in Uganda.
The good news is that the fight was not in vain. Uganda managed to achieve the target of elimination of Leprosy as a public health problem in the country. Leprosy was dealt a heavy blow with all the massive effort undertaken.
However, Uganda’s Ministry of Health brought to public knowledge that “a number of new Leprosy continue to be notified annually. In 2009, the case detection rate was 1.2/100,000. New cases continue to occur but 2/3 of cases came from only 13 out of 112 districts.”
While addressing journalists on Thursday (March 18, 2021) at the Ministry of Health Offices in Nakasero, Dr. Stavia Turyahabwe, the assistant commissioner, National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Division has said that every year Uganda records between 200 and 250 cases of leprosy but the majority of these (52%) come from Arua District.
This implies that the battle is not yet over, just like recently the Polio disease that had been eliminated resurfaced and was worked on by Nation-wide immunization of children, Leprosy too is being researched on. The target is a Leprosy-free Uganda.
As the World celebrates “World Leprosy Day”, a call is made to all people to avoid discrimination and seclusion of Leprosy patients that may be done by:
1. reduced job opportunities for Leprosy patients.
2. lower pay for the same work as someone without the condition
3. difficulty finding a partner as most people shy away from Leprosy patients.
4. rejection from the community as though the patients are Aliens from another planet.
5. isolation and marginalization in that the patients are ever locked indoors.
6. feelings of worthlessness as though they have no purpose in life