The Leprosy Mission Nigeria (TLMN) on Thursday revealed that over 3,000 new cases of leprosy disease are being recorded yearly in Nigeria while stigmatization and discrimination against its patients remains high.
Mr Terver Anyor, Funds Development Manager of TLMN disclosed this at a one-day workshop on Reducing Leprosy Related Stigma and Discrimination organized for media practitioners in Lokoja.
Anyor said the country had been rated “high burden” in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard which classified any country with record of more than 1,000 new cases yearly as such.
“The way to eradicate leprosy is by finding and treating every leprosy case seen but the biggest problem is finding them. Some as a result of lack of awareness or fear of stigma and discrimination hide away leading to average of 3,000 cases being recorded yearly in Nigeria.
“There is need for awareness. The last leprosy hospital in Sweden closed in 1948. It can be eradicated in Nigeria. We want to work with the media to increase information outflow, correct the stigma and discrimination and ensure treatment.”
He said that the TLMN, a Christian Non-Governmental Organisation founded in 1894 and working in about 40 countries across the globe commenced operation in Nigeria in 1986 and was officially invited by the Federal Government in 1989.
The Manager said that the mission in its fight against the causes and consequences of the disease in the seven North-Central states of the country was being faced with challenges including low political commitment.
Others according to him are weak referral system, lack of expertise in diagnosis and treatment, lack of awareness and principally, stigma and discrimination to which he attributed the endemic nature of the disease.
Anyor therefore called on the three tiers of government in the country to implement the UN Human Rights Resolution of 2008 signed by Nigeria to protect the rights of people living with disabilities.
“In a goodwill message, Mr Solomon Yahaya, chairman of Joint National Association of Persons Living with Disabilities, Kogi state chapter thanked the TLMN for the workshop and caution the public against use of derogatory names for disabled persons.
Yahaya said that even the most normal person was living with one disability or the other and only God was perfect and urged that the society should treat everyone irrespective of the visible disability equally and fairly.
Mrs Hannah Fashona, Social Development Officer and representative of the TLMN in Kogi also cautioned against use of discriminatory language and urged the media to help raise awareness through “effective reporting.”
Leprosy, according to Anyor is a disease condition caused by bacteria called Mycobacterium Leprae that kills the nerves and render them insensitive to touch or feeling and if left untreated could lead to loss of sensation, injury and disability.