Kwara - The Leprosy Mission International in Nigeria on Tuesday said 39 persons were treated last year for leprosy related ailments at its Oke-Igbala Hospital in Omu-Aran, Kwara.
Mr Femi Opabunmi, the Socio-economic Development Facilitator of the mission, made this known in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Omu-Aran.
He said the victims, made up of 24 males and 15 females, were from Omu-Aran, Oro, Offa, Oke-Onigbin, Ajase-Ipo and Ilorin.
Opabunmi said the patients, who were at various stages of the diseases, had undergone reaction treatment, eye treatment as well as reconstructive surgery at the hospital.
He listed stigma and discrimination against leprosy patients as the major factors militating against eradication of the disease, especially at the grassroots.
``The mission has expended lots of funds and countless human hours toward bringing the people back to normal life.
``The militating factors which we are presently contending with is the social aspect of the disease in terms of stigmatisation and discrimination.
``In spite of the fact that the disease is curable, the patients at times are subjected to various forms of discrimination by individuals, communities and institutions.
“Some even went as far as legislating against leprosy patients and preventing them from socialising with the rest of the society,” Opabunmi said.
The facilitator said that leprosy cases in Nigeria had declined significantly with few cases recorded in some communities.
He also said that the mission had reduced the scope of some of its services due to the recent global economic recession.
``This actually informed the mission’s recent drive toward soliciting for volunteers through church members, particularly ECWA related churches to complement the mission’s services,'' he said.
Opabunmi urged the people, especially those at the grassroots, to refrain from stigmatising leprosy patients.
According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, leprosy is one of the oldest recorded diseases in the world.
“It is an infectious chronic disease that targets the nervous system, especially the nerves in the cooler parts of the body - the hands, feet, and face,’’ it said.
The World Leprosy Day is observed internationally on Jan. 30 or its nearest Sunday to increase public awareness of leprosy or Hansen's Disease.
“This day was chosen in commemoration of the death of Gandhi, the leader of India, who understood the importance of leprosy,’’ said Wikipedia.