Finding joy in the midst of leprosy [Archives:2003/685/Health]

November 13 2003

By Dr. Saeed Ali Hassan Al-Sharafi
For the Yemen Times

I take this occasion to share my experience gained from a field visit through the National Leprosy Elimination Program. Usually as per the field visit schedule, my turn has been planned to Hajja Governorate, and my team mission and I went to the said governorate enthusiastically, where we met an intolerable scene.
It was 8 a.m., the sun was shining and the cold weather of the night fading away, that made us more brisk and the team very actively started entering into the field. We would have just finished investigating the people in one place. Suddenly a man with a stuffy nose flew away when seeing our team. All of us are watching this incidence and waiting for his next action.
Then we crossed to the next place where only few houses are situated far from one another. We proceeded to first house where we received a nice co-operation and saw the same man anyhow, we finished investigation and turned to another small tattered hut.
In the meantime more than 10 members appeared in front of us and prevented to move forth, that time it came to our knowledge that an old man who is living in that hut was the relatives to those who stood in front of us. Slowly one man came forward and told that the old man was a leprosy patient, and not having contact with him and given strict restriction not to come out. Also. they insisted that we not to go to that place. We forced them and went to his hut.
We saw a 65 years old, fair-skinned man, already disabled because he had lost the feeling in his hand and feet, even unable to feel pain. He had been living away from his wife and children for more years in the cave type hut. We investigated and started giving medicine. After a few conversations with him, we found that the patient was ill treated by the neighbors surrounded by him. He hurt himself and lost interest to live in this world, we encouraged him morally.
We were aware that a lack of health education, loss of self-esteem, lack of confidence and social stigma, created this horrible situation. So we gathered village people and started giving health education specially that the disease is not infectious one, and more raised questions and replies have been sent to the respective persons.
After a few minutes his wife and daughter brought all things of the patient from the hut and kept it in their house, they started living together and neighbors started speaking with the patient. The patient was very happy.
We were happy enough after seeing this great change in the village. I believe that a big stone in front of leprosy was broken between the bad thoughts on the leprosy and society.
So this incidence, to me, to my team and also to my project was the great achievement.