A public health expert, Dr Mercy Ekele, has called for more awareness and sensitization of the public on leprosy disease; and dispelling misinformation which are key to reducing the stigmitisation victims suffer.
Ekele spoke with newsmen on Sunday in Abuja, as the world marked this year’s World Leprosy Day.
1st News reports that Leprosy is an infectious disease of the skin as well as nerves which; if not diagnosed and also treated quickly, could result in debilitating disabilities.
The negative stigma surrounding the disease exacerbate the effects of leprosy.
The World celebrates Leprosy Day annually on January 30; to increase public awareness of the disease.
French humanitarian Raoul Follereau chose the day in 1953; to coincide with the anniversary of Mahatma Ghandi’s death on Jan. 30, 1948.
The theme for this year’s ceremony is “Ending Discrimination, Stigma and Prejudice”.
The public health expert said that leprosy was curable; and casual contact between people doesn’t transmit the disease.
She said that people who receive treatment could live a normal life if given the opportunity.
The expert challenged the Federal Government to be committed to the efforts toward eliminating the disease; and also against the stigmatisation and exclusion that people with leprosy suffer.
She noted that very little had been achieved by the government toward reducing discrimination; as well as the stigma faced by Nigerians with leprosy.
“There is plenty that governments and lawmakers can do to transform the lives of people affected by this disease and to defeat it.
“In each state, there should be something different that the state government can do. What is crucial in every state where leprosy exists is to maintain commitment to ending the disease,” she advised.
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Ekele said that through training and awareness raising campaigns; the government could ensure that leprosy knowledge was present among health care professionals in every state’s general health systems.
She said that Nigerians living with leprosy suffer severe debilitating effect on their body; and also called for a unique and holistic toward caring for them.
She called on the government, clergymen, philanthropists and every Nigerian; to focus on the physical, social, spiritual as well as psychological needs of Nigerians living with the disease.
Ekele advocated that state governments should provide them with healthcare, rehabilitation disability care, housing, water as well as sanitation; because they all live in basic shelters with inadequate sanitation because of discrimination.
1st News recalls that leprosy is one of the oldest recorded diseases in the world. It is an infectious chronic disease that targets the nervous system; especially the nerves in the cooler parts of the body – the hands, feet, and face.