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WHO decries growing discrimination against Lepers in Africa

18 September 2013, 17:30

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 Ethiopian Government.

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 members.''

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.



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