Leprosy: The curse beyond imagination

By Beatrice Nyangoma

Sylvia Namugerwa a 24-year  resident of Buikwe district has been battling with leprosy for the last seventeen years. She says that people look at her as unclean and they don’t allow her to socialize with them for fear of infecting them.

‘’ I was very beautiful but I lost my beauty due to leprosy, the father of my three children also left me ,people also shunned me because of the disfiguring skin sores  and this stresses me but if we are in our own camp as leprosy patients it can help us,’’ she says.

74-year old Patrick Mujjasi a resident of Wabulungu B village ,Wairasa sub county in Mayuge district was dumped  at St Francis General Hospital, a national Leprosy Referral Center inBuluba Sub County in Mayuge district by his family members. He says that throwing him at this facility is the best he could get given the mistreatment he suffered while at home.

“My wife divorced because of my appearance ,I can’t dig, am deformed my fingers and toes become shortened ,both the relatives and the community segregate me they can’t even eat with me.”he says

” I appeal to the Government  to establish a camp for people suffering from leprosy so that we can stay there,’’ he adds

Most of the leprosy patients may share the same feelings as Mujjasi and Namugerwa. The feeling of not fitting into society because of this imaginable illness.

Leprosy  also known as the Hansen’s Disease is a chronic infectious disease that primarily affects the peripheral nerves, skin, upper respiratory tract, eyes, and nasal mucosa (lining of the nose).

 St Francis General Hospital administrators say that they are registering a rise in the number of leprosy patients.

Henry Katende the facility Superitendant says that they are overwhelmed by both patients and former patients who flock the facility because they have been abandoned by their relatives.

He notes that unfortunately, many of the people show up for treatment when it is too late. He says that this is caused by the fact few hospitals do screening for liprosy and in cases where they do, they sometimes misdiagnose becase they lack enough information about loprosy.

‘’ In 2016 we received 41 patients who were diagnosed by leprosy compared to 25 in 2015  an indication in the increase in the number of patients with the diseases and one case per 100,000 population  are suffering from leprosy in Uganda ,’’  Katende said

He however notes that future of liprosy patients is uncertain since the main funders- the German Leprosy Relief Association are withdrawing this year.

“Germany Leprosy  Relief Association is withdrawing  funding  which it has been providing to the hospital in terms of paying staff, supplying medicine, dressing them  and feeding. One of the reasons for their withdrawal is that the hospital has since become a general hospital and yet their mission was only Liprosy”. he adds

He explains that Leprosy affects mainly the three body parts including the hands, feet and the face which makes the patient unable to close the eyes hence making him or her prone to injuries.

“Leprosy is a chronically infections bacteria disease .it mainly affects the skin ,the nervous system ,the eye and the respiratory system but early detection remains the best way to minimize the spread of leprosy because once detected  and put on treatment , the spread is minimized and the  patient’s immunity remains strong to counter other infections but if left untreated ,it can progressive ,causing permanent damage to the skin ,nerve, limbs and eyes ,’’ he said

The Cardinal signs of leprosy include  punche like a ring worm, muscle weakeness, , pain of certain body parts which can cause numbness in the hands, arm, feet and legs, skin lesions and its  incubation period ranges from three year to thirty.