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.
Latifat: A Story of Leprosy's Cruel Journey
We met Latifat recently in Nigeria. She is a beautiful young women who was just starting her life working as a professional model and photographer.
But one day she noticed her fingers were swollen and stiff. She found it difficult to use her camera.
She tried traditional medicines, herbs and ointments, but nothing helped. She went to the hospital when she noticed the swelling hadn’t gone down in her fingers and she’d developed a sore on her foot that wouldn’t heal. She spent her last pennies on so-called cures. Then a women saw here and told her to go to the local leprosy hospital. Out of money Latifat made the journey on foot. When she arrived her dreams were shattered when the doctor told her she had leprosy.
During this time she also gave birth to a little girl. Her daughter is a toddler now and has lived her entire life in the leprosy hospital. Latifat does what she can to make it a happy life, but with her disability it is difficult to keep up as the toddler becomes more mobile every day.
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.