Did you know that every two minutes, a person is diagnosed with leprosy?
For people affected by leprosy like young dad Nuhu (pictured above), the battle isn't only against the disease, it is also against the despair of being rejected by their community. They are often made to feel that they are broken and somehow unworthy of being loved.
Even in communities worldwide where there is no leprosy, people use hateful and outdated terms like 'leper'* and make the disease synonymous with being undesirable. This kind of language can be harmful when it echoes around online, on TV and other art forms and reaches communities where people live with the disease. *(The Leprosy Mission does not endorse the use of the term 'leper'. The correct term is 'person affected by leprosy'. Please use the correct term in all communications.)
Due to the stigma surrounding leprosy, people affected by the disease are often kicked out of family homes and communities. They are forced to live apart from the others on the streets, in caves or sheds. In some of the worst cases, small children are hidden away for years.
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In Nigeria, Nuhu contracted leprosy at the age of 18. He first noticed patches on his hand and ulcers developed on his right foot, but he didn't know what was causing it. It was not until he was aged 30 that Nuhu heard about The Leprosy Mission where he was diagnosed and given the cure of Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT).
Unfortunately, as he started to feel better, he stopped taking his medicine resulting in worsening ulcers. Three years later, by the time he went back to The Leprosy Mission to complete his treatment, his leg was beyond saving and had to be amputated just below the knee.
With the help of The Leprosy Mission, Nuhu was able to receive a free artificial leg and stay at an accommodation during his rehabilitation period.
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Following his treatment, he said, "when I lost my leg I would never go out and meet my friends and became depressed, but now I will and be able to care for my animals and land that was given to me at Yangoji. This will completely change my life for the better!"
To help people like Nuhu, this year let's join together and teach communities that no one deserves to be rejected or stigmatised simply because they are suffering with leprosy. The Leprosy Mission Australia is calling on the community to dedicate a day during the months of February to March for a World Leprosy Day.
What can you do to help?
1. Host a World Leprosy Day Event
World Leprosy Day is observed globally each year on the last Sunday in January, with the aim of raising awareness and knowledge about leprosy, the fact that it can be cured and to change attitudes that stigmatise and marginalise people affected by the disease.
During the months following World Leprosy Day (January 31, 2021), hold your own World Leprosy Day event at your organisation, church, group, online or outdoors with your family and friends.
2. Donate to overturn the stigma of leprosy
Help to stop the pain of rejection for people affected by leprosy. Every dollar you donate will help with early diagnosis and treatment of leprosy and stop it from leading to nerve damage, ulcers and permanent disability.
The sooner we can find and treat people with the disease, the less likely they are to lose sensation in hands and feet. They won't need amputations because of neglected ulcers and chronic infection.
And they won't have to suffer stigma from a completely treatable disease!
Go to www.leprosymission.org.au/get-involved/world-leprosy-sunday-2021/ to register your interest, download free World Leprosy Sunday resources and donate.
You can also request a hard copy of the World Leprosy Sunday resources by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or giving us a call on 1800 537 767 during office hours.
Thank you for your amazing compassion.Together we can end leprosy discrimination from our world.
Taniah Ismael, The Leprosy Mission