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World Leprosy Day: New leprosy cases still up to 4000 a year, says activists

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Washington Uba, host, explaining points to participants at the exhibition for the World Leprosy Day

With an annual new case detection of 4,000 people, a grade two disability rate of 12%, and nearly 10% child ratio among new cases, leprosy remains a disease of public health concern in Nigeria, experts lamented.

And faced with the reality of low endemicity; a declining budgetary allocation for leprosy control; and a pervasive loss of expertise; it is necessary for Nigeria to re-organise its leprosy control services to further reduce the burden of the disease and ensure quality care to people affected by leprosy.

This insight and call was made by activists against leprosy and for leprosy awareness in Nigeria.

At a symposium on Lagos to mark the 2021 Annual Leprosy Awareness Day on Sunday, January 31 in Lagos, Mr. Washington Uba, an engineer and activist called for more action and enlightenment on the masses.

The parley hosted by his group, Charity Care Network Initiative (CCNI) simply known as Cap-in-Hand featured activists and experts who held discussions on the awareness. They  expressed regret that the country has not been paying much attention to raising enough public information and curative measures against the spread of leprosy.

And to worsen it, the team of participants regretted that the victims of leprosy seem abandoned as all leprosy homes look unfit for human habitation even as the government and health departments and experts hardly discuss the ailment or patients.

The team reasoned that “researchers and policy makers have shown increasing interest in entrepreneurship and its association with economic development. In the literature, a good number of studies have established positive relationship between entrepreneurship and employment generation, poverty alleviation and economic development.

It is for this reason that various governments in Nigeria over the past three decades implemented a number of policies and programmes aimed at addressing the high rate of unemployment, wide-spread poverty and low level of economic development. Unfortunately, the various policies and programmes have failed to achieve the desired results, though it was never all inclusive, because people affected by leprosy were left out in the government policy considerations.”

Uba said: “Experts have kept on saying that the level of infrastructure dilapidation in Nigeria is regrettably yearning for a state of emergency to be declared. But the leprosy colonies are not exempted in this regard. Having documented the major leprosy colonies in Nigeria for seven years, it is heart aching that the entrepreneurial facilities within the colonies are dilapidated, such as; carpentry workshop, tailoring, brick industry, palm oil mill, artificial limb factory.”

They also reasoned that organisations supporting people affected by Hansen’s disease (leprosy) have social rather than capitalist aims, but they need to take a business-minded approach to their work if they wish to be sustainable, experts at a global conference in Manila, Philippines said. Representatives of organisations from Asia, Africa, and Latin America agreed that sustainability is the biggest challenge they face.

Team of participants at the event in Lagos on Sunday

“Every organisation faces some uncertainty over the continuity of donor or government financial support, so reducing or eliminating reliance on external funding is considered a critical priority.

 Japan’s The Nippon Foundation (TNF) and Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF), which sponsored the global forum and provided capacity support to the participating organisations, have long taken the view that sustainability should be the ultimate goal. SHF Executive Director Dr. Takahiro Nanri stressed that his foundation’s goal was to see its beneficiaries become self-supporting. ”In order to be truly sustainable, the organisation needs to develop an income-generating programme,” Nanri said at the time.

Further in his submission, Uba stated that: “The aim of this documentary exhibition, in marking the ‘2021 World Leprosy Day’ is to bring to fore the need, for government support on the renovation of the facilities and to formulate new approach by stakeholders for entrepreneurial sustainability of the colonies, thereby reducing the reliance on donor organizations.”

In 2016, the countries with the highest number of new diagnoses were India, Brazil, and Indonesia, followed by some of the nations in Africa.

 Two-thirds of all new cases of Hansen’s disease are diagnosed in India, which remains home to a third of the world’s poor, a group disproportionately affected by the disease.

 In the United States:

Prominent actor, Soibifaa Dokubo was one of the personalities at the event

 About 150 to 250 cases are reported each year.

 In 2015, 178 new cases were reported to the National Hansen’s Disease Program (NHDP)external icon, which coordinates care, research, and information about Hansen’s disease in the U.S.

 Most of those cases occur in people who have lived in areas of the world where the disease is still common.

Approximately 5,000 people in the U.S. have been cured, but suffer from the long-term complications of Hansen’s disease, like paralysis and blindness, and continue to receive care through outpatient clinics and private physicians.

 In some southern states of the U.S., nine-banded armadillos have been found to carry the bacterium that causes Hansen’s disease. It is thought that transmission to people may occur when they handle these animals.

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