Leprosy: More than a disease
And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”
Leprosy is an ancient disease that continues to affect many people today. Although it can be cured, many are left suffering.
Leprosy is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium leprae, and causes horrible physical inflictions. The first sign of the disease is often skin lesions all over the body. Then the person begins to lose sensation in their fingers, toes, and limbs.
Losing sensation means that people don’t realize when they’ve hurt themselves. Wounds are left unattended for too long, and get infected. This causes nerves to enlarge and become damaged, which can lead to a loss of limbs and sight. People living with leprosy are left in financial difficulty because they cannot work.
But it’s not just about the physical damage.
Indrakhala: “The curse” of the community
Indrakhala scrambles for her food on the ground. Her mother is the only one to feed her, and the food is thrown at her as if she were a stray animal. Even though she receives no love from her mother, Indrakhala must rely on her because she has no other way to fend for herself.
She has sensation loss in many parts of her body. Her face is paralyzed and she cannot close her eyes. Her foot may have to be partially amputated.
Leprosy is curable, but Indrakhala’s case was left for too long. Her community shunned her and left her alone to die in a shed. She feels no love from her family and she cries often. Known as “the curse” in her community, Indrakhala suffers a fate worse than physical damage.
She died socially long ago.
With no existence or purpose in her community, Indrakhala is treated like a ghost. She has learned to stay “out of the way” or she will be hit by her family if she gets too close.
She may be able to regain mobility and close her eyes with surgery, but no surgery or medicine can heal the wounds in her heart.
Leprosy is a feared disease, even though it is completely curable with multi-drug therapy. Some communities still think it is a curse, and will shun the people who are already suffering with the lasting effects of leprosy. They are evicted from their homes, fired from their workplace, and abandoned. Their family and friends don’t give them any support and they are completely neglected, often being sent away to leprosy colonies. It is the reality for people like Indrakhala.
We are lucky that multi-drug therapy is free for all patients, but that is only the beginning of the solution. It’s just as important that people can live in inclusive communities where they receive the love and care they deserve. With our supporters’ generosity, effect:hope trains health workers to identify leprosy in its early stages and raise awareness of the disease in communities. The health care workers will speak with and touch the leprosy patients, helping break down some of the fear that the communities have about contracting the disease. With more people who are trained and aware, leprosy can be stopped early before people will suffer a loss of limbs, mobility, or sight.
We also ensure that after people are cured, they receive the appropriate care so they can return to their lives with full-health. Services such as surgery, physical therapy, self-care training, and counselling are all important parts of our work overseas.
effect:hope has worked to serve people with leprosy for over a century. From doing important research on leprosy transmission and educating communities about leprosy, we are inching closer and closer to elimination every day. Learn about our research into the cause and permanent end for leprosy at R2STOP.
Leprosy is not over. Join us in our fight.