Monday, August 21, 2017

Leprosy mission aims to remove stigma

The Myanmar Christian Leprosy Mission wants to remove the stigma from leprosy and will launch an awareness-raising program next month, says its program secretary.

Volunteers assist at a leprosy mission recently. Photo: Supplied/Christian Leprosy MissionVolunteers assist at a leprosy mission recently. Photo: Supplied/Christian Leprosy Mission

U Saw Eh Htoo told The Myanmar Times that the program would be based in its 11 centres throughout the country, which are in Bago, Ayeyarwady, Magway and Yangon regions.

The program will provide psycho-social support and spiritual encouragement, vocational training, tools or wheelchairs and education for children from leprosy-affected families.

“We will visit nearby villages to find new cases so that we can provide multidrug therapy treatment and save sufferers from deformity,” he said.

The mission says that despite a steady decline in the numbers of sufferers, a stigma still afflicts leprosy victims.

“We can’t even use the word ‘leprosy’ in our program, because then nobody would come,” he said, adding that people with deformities often face discrimination and exclusion from society. The program aims at removing the stigma that can persist even once they are cured, preventing sufferers from finding work and excluding their children from education.

“Leprosy can affect any one of us, and society should cooperate in helping to find new cases and overcome the disease.”

The mission will help with school entrance fees, tuition and text books for students at various educational levels.

Leprosy is curable and not highly infectious. In 2012, the mission estimated that there were 9496 sufferers in 2096 households, including 99 new cases.

About 300,000 people in Myanmar have been treated for leprosy as part of the Myanmar National Leprosy Control Program, said Dr Mike Griffiths, a disability consultant with NGO the Leprosy Mission International (TLMI).

The Ministry of Health says about 90 percent of leprosy cases are found in central Myanmar.