Addis Ababa - The World Health Organisation
(WHO), on Wednesday in Addis Ababa, called for more commitment to
eliminating stigmatisation and discrimination against persons suffering
from Leprosy in Africa.
The organisation's Director, Africa Regional Office, Dr Luis Sambo,
made the call at a one-day symposium on eliminating stigma and
discrimination against persons affected by the disease.
The programme is jointly organised by the NIPPON Foundation, Sasakawa
Memorial Health Foundation, the African Union Commission (AUC) and the
Sambo said that people affected were being discriminated against even
with the current data which showed that only one Leprosy
case was being recorded among every 10,000 persons in Africa since 2005,
when the disease was put under controlled.
He explained that the spate of discrimination and stigmatisation
faced by such persons, had caused some form of psychological effects on
them, there by making ``them feel rejected by the society and family
The director said: "Leprosy is among the oldest and most dreaded
diseases without an effective remedy for the long history, which
resulted in terrible deformity on affected persons.
"It is also thought to be extremely communicable making the patients
abandoned by families, forced to live in isolation and discriminated
against as social outcasts,'' Sambo said.
According to him, in the early 90s, an effective cure became
available and the therapy had successfully treated over 14 million
people, adding that recent findings has shown that the disease is
extremely difficult to contract.
Sambo appealed to stakeholders to put more policy framework to
educate the public against stigma and discrimination, and to
support persons affected by the disease in Africa.
Also speaking, the AUC said that Leprosy no longer pose any threat
to people as it was perceived before, and lamented over the level of
stigma and discrimination against affected persons.
The Commissioner of Social Affairs in the AUC, Dr Mustapha Kaloko,
said that the organisation was developing additional policies and legal
frameworks to ensure that all tropical diseases were eliminated by 2020
and discrimination reduced.
Kaloko said that AU member countries, needed to show more commitment
to ensure the successful elimination of all tropical diseases on the
continent within the time frame.
The Ethiopian Health Minister, Dr. Keseteberhan Admasu, said that the
Ethiopian Government had recorded tremendous achievement on the effort
to eradicate cases of Leprosy,Tuberculoses among other dreaded diseases
in the country.
The minister said that the government had successfully tackled cases
of Tuberculoses and Leprosy, and has currently embarked on various
campaigns against stigma and discrimination on Lepers in the country.
Admasu said that the government had also initiated various programmes
including housing schemes, micro finance and small businesses for the
affected persons to enable them live a normal life.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the event is being
attended by the President of Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation, Yohei
Sasakawa, health officials from different parts of Africa as well as
members of the Diplomatic Corps.