By Abujah Racheal
Abuja – Dr Gabriel Adakole, an Abuja based Public Health expert, has urged the Federal Government to encourage self-care training for people affected by leprosy.
Adakole made call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), on Monday in Abuja.
He said government should also ensure that the stigmatisation of people with leprosy was tackled, as well as make sure they were empowered to stand up for their rights.
The expert said that the combination of a disease that had a debilitating effect on the body and stigma associated with it required a holistic approach.
He called on government to focus on the physical, social, spiritual and psychological needs of leprosy patients in the country.
Adakole who spoke further on the health, rehabilitation and disability care for leprous persons, noted that even after treatment the disease might have already caused permanent damage to their nerves.
“As they no longer feel pain, they are usually at risk of injuring their hands and feet while completing daily tasks such as walking and cooking.
“Government needs to design a programme to train people on self-care techniques that will help minimise the risk of injury, and promote the setting up of self-care groups in leprosy-affected communities.
“Teach them how to inspect each other for injuries and encourage one another to treat their wounds, as well as on giving each other emotional support,” he said.
The health expert said that many people affected by the disease live in basic shelters with inadequate sanitation because of poverty and discrimination.
“Often, they live as part of a leprosy-affected community set up because people with the disease were shunned by friends and neighbours,’’ he said.
Adakole advised the government to provide thousands of leprosy-affected families with improved housing and sanitation in the country.
He also advised the government to create opportunity for children and young people from leprosy-affected families to acquire basic education and improve their livelihood.
“Going to school will encourage them to achieve their full potential.
“Leprosy is one of the world’s most stigmatised disease. It seems inconceivable that people affected by a mildly-infectious disease can become so marginalised in society,” he said.
The expert said that it was disheartening to note that leprosy could destroy job, education and marriage prospects of an entire family as a result of age-long stigma and misunderstanding surrounding the disease.
He decried a prevalent global myth that leprosy was a curse for something the victims had done wrong, either recently or in past life. (NAN)