World Leprosy Day:FG Pledges to End Stigma

The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has announced that leprosy is curable and the treatment is free in all the designated treatment centers across the country.

The Minister made this known while briefing the Press to commemorate the 2019 World Leprosy Day with a theme: Ending Discrimination, Stigma and Prejudice in Nigeria.

The Minister said “Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by a slowly multiplying germ, a bacillus called mycobacterium leprosy whose incubation period is up to five years while the symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear”

Ehanire added “ Untreated leprosy case eventually cause disabilities which lead to terrible hardship of discrimination and stigma; the good news is that leprosy is now curable with multidrug therapy and the treatment is free”.

The Minister further explained that leprosy was not a divine punishment. It was neither hereditary nor caused by witchcraft but a disease that could be cured.

According to him “Stigma and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their families is still a major challenge in Nigeria. There are many mistaken beliefs about the disease, for example, that it is highly contagious or hereditary or it’s a divine punishment.” Ehanire said.

Speaking on Federal Government’s efforts to stem leprosy in Nigeria, Ehanire said that the Federal Ministry of Health had launched a five year National Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Strategic Plan (2016-2020) in 2016, with a view of nipping the menace of Leprosy in Nigeria.

He said the strategic plan was used to facilitate implementation of appropriate strategies to increase case detection, improve treatment outcome, prevent disabilities and provide rehabilitation services to affected persons.

In his remarks, the Chairman International Federation of Anti-leprosy Association ( ILEP) who is also country Director Leprosy Mission Nigeria, Dr. Sunday Udo called on government to step up campaign against stigma on persons affected by leprosy. He also appealed to government to identify and review national policies and laws that had discriminatory practice.

He pledged to support the Federal Government in the fight against discrimination on persons affected by leprosy.

“I will like to reiterate our strategic commitment to tacked leprosy until Nigeria is free from devastating scourge and consequences including stigma and discrimination”, he added.

Also speaking, the head of leprosy community Mr. Ali Isa Zaki, called on the Federal Government to provide vehicle that would be used to pick up newly detected patients to the hospital. He also called on the government to stock their hospital with drugs not only for leprosy but other ailments.

Mr. Zaki also urged the government to rehabilitate their houses, evacuate their sewage and give them sustainable allowance that would stop them from begging.

Boade Akinola (Mrs)

Director, Media and Public Relations
FMOH