Wednesday January 23, 2019

Early Diagnosis and Treatment Can Prevent Disability from Leprosy

WHO is calling for laws discriminating against people with leprosy to be abolished

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WHO is taking initiatives to eradicate Leprosy and its harmful effects. VOA
WHO is taking initiatives to eradicate Leprosy and its harmful effects. VOA
  • Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent serious impacts of Leprosy

To mark World Leprosy Day, the World Health Organization is calling for the eradication of this ancient disfiguring disease by combating the stigma and discrimination that discourages people from seeking the help they need.

World Health Organisation spreads awareness about Leprosy. Wikimedia Commons
World Health Organisation spreads awareness about Leprosy. Wikimedia Commons

Leprosy is a chronic bacterial disease with a slow incubation period of about five years. In some cases, symptoms may occur within one year, but can take as long as 20 years to appear.

Leprosy was eliminated globally as a public health problem in 2000, but the disease persists in individuals and communities. WHO spokesman, Tarik Jasarevic, tells VOA this is unacceptable, as an effective treatment exists that can fully cure people of leprosy.

Also Read: PM Modi calls for collective effort for complete elimination of Leprosy

Leprosy can cause severe damage to body parts leading to disabilities. VOA
Leprosy can cause severe damage to body parts leading to disabilities. VOA

“Since ’95, WHO has provided this multi-drug therapy free of cost to all leprosy patients in the world,” he said. “In 2016, WHO launched global leprosy strategy, 2016-2020, accelerating toward a leprosy-free world. This is basically to revamp the efforts for leprosy control. The strategy focuses on avoiding disabilities, especially among children.”

This year’s World Leprosy Day focuses on preventing disabilities in children. WHO reports children account for nearly nine percent of all new cases of leprosy, including almost seven percent of those with visible deformities.

WHO is also trying to eradicate the discrimination people with Leprosy face. VOA
WHO is also trying to eradicate the discrimination people with Leprosy face. VOA

The U.N. health agency notes early diagnosis and early treatment can prevent disability. It says disabilities do not occur overnight, but happen after a prolonged period of undiagnosed and untreated disease.

Also Read: WHO calls for focused efforts to eradicate tropical diseases

Unfortunately, it notes many people do not seek help until it is too late and deformities already have appeared. This is because of the stigma and discrimination associated with leprosy.

WHO is calling for laws discriminating against people with leprosy to be abolished and replaced with policies promoting inclusion of such people within society. VOA

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Access To Public Facilities Restricted To Over 27Mn Disabled People In Nigeria

In November, Nigeria’s disabled protested to the national assembly, demanding passage of the long-delayed bill.

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FILE - Health official administers a polio vaccine to a child in Kawo Kano, Nigeria.VOA

In Nigeria, over 27 million disabled people live in obscurity, treated like second-class citizens, without access to public facilities. The Nigerian Disability Bill is meant to address these shortcomings. But, nearly two decades after it was initiated, the law has yet to be enacted.

Musa Muazu, 31, became disabled as a teenager when he suffered a fall that left him paralyzed. He relies on a wheelchair to get around.

Muazu is one of 27 million disabled Nigerians trying to lead a normal life.
But a lack of handicapped facilities means disabled people like Muazu struggle for access.

“Public infrastructures in Nigeria is another… let me call it a hell to persons with disabilities ranging from the school, you can imagine as a person with disabilities you’re going to lectures in a four-story building.. you can imagine you want to access probably a bank, hospital, places of worship, there’s no provision for ramp for you to come in,” he said.

disability, Nigeria
In Burkina Faso, about 10 percent of the population is disabled. Some, like Laya, are helped by an operation, such as the removal of a cataract, but for others Light for the World, an international disability and development charity, helps in other ways, including community based rehabilitation, VOA

According to Nigeria’s Center for Citizens with Disabilities, 98 percent of public structures and facilities are not handicapped accessible.

At a community for the disabled in Abuja, thousands of handicapped Nigerians live virtually segregated from the rest of society.

Since 1999, Nigeria’s disabled have been seeking a law ensuring access to public buildings, roads, and sidewalks and protection against discrimination.

But their efforts to push for the Disabled Bill have been met with resistance.

Nigeria’s disabled account for a third of the 87 million people living in extreme poverty. On the streets of Abuja, many are reduced to begging.

They accuse the government of willful neglect and exclusion – a charge authorities deny.

disability, Nigeria
A person with disability, VOA

“The law of other people that are abled are being passed,” noted Mohammed Dantani, secretary of the Disabled People’s Community. “Are we not Nigerians? We’re also citizens, our number 27 million reached the number that when we pass a motion, it’s supposed to be listened to or heard.”

Also Read: Early Diagnosis and Treatment Can Prevent Disability from Leprosy

In November, Nigeria’s disabled protested to the national assembly, demanding passage of the long-delayed bill.

Lawmakers responded in December by finally passing the bill – to President Muhammadu Buhari.

In 2014, then candidate Buhari promised to sign the bill if elected. But as Nigeria heads to elections once again in February, that promise has yet to be fulfilled. (VOA)