04 Feb 2016 18:40pm
RUNDU, 04 FEB (NAMPA) Leprosy survivors here want a centre for income-generating projects to be established for them in the area.
The request was made on Wednesday during the commemoration of World Leprosy Day, which aims to raise awareness of the debilitating disease and its impact on impoverished communities.
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by a bacteria or germ. It affects the skin and nerves of infected individuals. It is curable.
Namibia has attained leprosy elimination status, but continues to report new cases of the disease annually.
The majority of cases are reported in the Kavango, Zambezi and Oshana regions. The biggest community of leprosy patients, some of whom have been cured and others who are still on treatment, live in Mashare, just east of Rundu in the Kavango East Region.
During the occasion held at the Mashare Constituency office in Rundu, community members asked that the leprosy hospital that used to operate in the region be reopened, so that leprosy sufferers can receive better care and treatment.
For decades, Mashare was the site of a leprosarium - a hospital built exclusively to treat and quarantine leprosy sufferers - until it was closed in the 1980s during the liberation struggle.
Special advisor to the Minister of Health and Social Services, Bience Gawanas vowed to actively campaign to ensure that Namibians stop stigmatising people who suffer from leprosy.
She said during the commemoration that the fact that they have the disease does not mean people with leprosy do not have rights and dignity.
On top of having to deal with the effects of the disease on their health, leprosy sufferers also go through stigmatisation, so much so that some are not even allowed to use communal taps.
In the olden days people did not know what we know now about leprosy and those who suffered from leprosy were isolated, she said.
Gawanas further said there is a clear link between poverty and the disease.
With Namibia having declared war on poverty, we also need to look at patients or those who have overcome leprosy. I will definitely take the message to the ministry, she said.