Top 9 Ways That Covid-19 Impacts Those Affected By Leprosy And Other Neglected Tropical Diseases

Every day, thousands of people are diagnosed with neglected tropical diseases like leprosy. They suffer physical symptoms and develop life-altering disabilities. They distance themselves from others due to stigma and discrimination which leads to social isolation, mental health issues and poverty.

The COVID-19 crisis is having a disproportionate impact on the people living with neglected tropical diseases like leprosy. They are at a higher risk of catching the virus and even dying from it. Not only that, the Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting the process of delivering medical care to them. 

Here are 9 ways COVID-19 is impacting the people affected by leprosy and other neglected tropical diseases.

1. Lack of access to health care

Many countries have imposed travel and transport bans due to COVID-19. As a result, people who suffer from leprosy are finding it harder to access the health care they need. In some cases, the health facilities are prioritizing COVID cases. Leprosy and NTD (neglected tropical diseases) patients are being denied treatment..

2. People with leprosy are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19

Neglected tropical disease patients often live with compromised immune systems. As a result, they are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. They are also at higher risk of developing a serious illness or even dying from a COVID-19 infection.

3. Lack of access to food, clean water, and soap

WASH (WAter, Sanitation and Hygiene) is the best defense against this virus. For vulnerable people we serve, access to clean water, soap and even food is becoming a concern. Most can't afford the essential daily needs of their families.  And we predict it will only get worse.

4. Weak public healthcare systems in countries where we operate are overwhelmed

Countries where we operate, do not have strong public health systems. Whatever little they do have is being overwhelmed by the current pandemic. These countries also do not have any safety nets as we do in Canada. Most of our patients are at the end of the line and are often the last ones reached with the government aid. Keeping track of who’s receiving any government help is becoming increasingly difficult. As a result some are not receiving the support and resources they need to fight their disease.

5. Loss of jobs for those working in the informal economy

Persons affected by neglected tropical diseases are particularly vulnerable to economic instability. They often work as day laborers or run small shops. Many are unable to work due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, quarantines, physical distancing and other measures. They are more likely to suffer a greater loss of income over the long-term. As a result, poor are getting poorer and their families will pay a price...for a long time. These measures are also impeding their access the medication or medical attention that they need. 

6. Increased vulnerability to COVID-19

Many of those affected by leprosy are not receiving health promotion information regarding COVID-19 due to issues with travel, geography, or illiteracy. This is putting some of the most vulnerable people on the planet at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

7. Loss of jobs in the developed world leads to less charity

The economic downturn caused by COVID-19 is leading to job losses and instability right here in Canada and around the world. This has led to a significant decrease in charitable donations around the world, right when we need them most - Donations which are integral to providing those with leprosy the medical supplies and treatment they need at this very time.

8. Isolation and also stigma due to COVID-19 is causing further mental distress to those with neglected tropical diseases 

Neglected tropical diseases can lead to disability and physical disfigurement. This in turn leads to stigma, discrimination, and isolation. The result of all this - a negative impact on the mental health of the patients. COVID-19 is further isolating this population. We work hard to restore them in their communities, but we losing the gains we made in the past.

9. The stigma that people with leprosy experience has lead to poorer assistance with COVID related cases

Unfortunately, there is still a widespread stigma towards those who have leprosy. Leprosy and NTD patients are mistreated, in some cases are refused COVID testing and treatment entirely.

How Can I Help?

At this time we are asking for both your prayers and your financial support. COVID-19 has greatly impacted those that we serve, and we need your help to continue to reach and provide care to those who need it most.

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