Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is caused by a slow-growing bacterium, known as Mycobacterium leprae, that spreads slowly through the body. The infection of this disease is considered to happen by breathing in droplets in the air and it usually involves long-term contact with a carrier of the disease. Across the world, WHO recognizes approximately 208,000 people as carriers of leprosy. Also, over 2,000 people are newly diagnosed with the disease on a yearly basis; mainly in 23 countries. Nigeria, as one of these nations, registered 2,095 new cases of leprosy in 2018.
Without treatment, leprosy could cause permanent damages to the infected part of the body; hands, feet, and eyes. These damages could lead to paralysis, blindness, and amputations. However, in the 1980s, a combination of antibiotics used in an approach called multidrug therapy, also known as MDT, has made this long-time disease curable. In 1989, Nigeria inaugurated a National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Program for the active identification of cases of leprosy and the administration of MDT. Nationally, Nigeria achieved WHO’s benchmark in 2000. Nevertheless, the Hansen’s disease remains in the country, even after 20 years.
The Omu-Aran facility is in the care of the ECWA mission.
The Omu-Aran leprosarium was founded in 1943 by Canadian missionaries who were in charge of it until the late ‘70s, but currently, it is in the care of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) mission. A 70-year old patient who has spent almost three decades at the leprosarium, Abigail Olaiya, reported that her meals have been unpredictable for a really long while. She eats twice a day and at other times, she starves all day because she is unable to afford her feeding expenses.
Olaiya and other residents of the facility testify that they are been offered a genuine sense of safety and communal belonging that they have been denied in the society. The leprosarium takes responsibility of their food, shelter and permits freedom of religion despite being run by a church. The facility accommodates a church, mosque, hospital and an extension with living quarters. Regrettably, the administrator of facility, Samuel Abiodun, stated that the exit of the missionaries led the leprosarium into deterioration.
Currently, there are 64 leprosy colonies in Nigeria.
Carriers of this disease are prone to stigma, not only because of the infectious nature of the illness, because even after the disease is cured, the stigma remains. Residents of the facility, just like Olaiya, suffer hunger and discrimination with no support from anyone, and making little to no money from begging for cash. In most cases, due to the stigma, people do not permit them to work. As a result, they are dependent on the kindness of the people of Omu-Aran.
Currently, there are 64 leprosy settlements in Nigeria, but unfortunately the majority of them are in different states of disrepair with little to no funding. Residents of these leprosy colonies, since time past and until now, are faced with isolation and are usually unable to return to their houses due to stigmatic isolation. Occupants of leprosarium facilities are infected by different kinds of leprosy, it could be tuberculoid leprosy, lepromatous leprosy, and borderline leprosy.
Leprosarium facilities are in need of funding.
The Facility administrator was employed to oversee the affairs of the community. He is also saddled with the supervision of the hospital staff, but he complains on how difficult it is to manage the facility on a small budget. On this note, he suggests that the acquiring of an X-ray machine and a full blood analyzer would attract more outpatients to the hospital. Also, if only politicians in Nigeria who go to these facilities during the times of election, promising a better life, would fulfill their promises, leprosy facilities would be conducive enough for its residents.