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World Leprosy Day 2022: Highlighting the Pressing Needs of the Inhabitants of Alheri Special Village, FCT

By Thelma Chioma Abeku, Kenni Ndili and Kenneth Ibe (Lead Writers)

World Leprosy Day is observed on the last Sunday of January every year, to increase the public awareness of leprosy or Hansen’s Disease. 

Leprosy is an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs, and skin area of the human body.

The community head and other heads of the community welcoming the Nigeria Health Watch team. Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

To commemorate the 2022 World Leprosy Day with the advocacy campaign theme ‘’United for Dignity’’, Nigeria Health Watch visited and toured the Alheri community in Yangoji, Kwali Area Council in the Federal Capital Territory.

Many households in Alheri special village are in dire need of proper sanitation such as toilets and a sewage system Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

The community is mainly occupied by people affected by leprosy and so it is also known as, ‘the Leprosy Village’. The aim of the visit was to assess their way of life, highlight their most pressing health needs and draw the attention of the relevant stakeholders to improve their standard of living.

People suffering from leprosy should not be neglected, but rather reintegrated into society. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

Every community must have access to proper Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities to stay clean and live healthy. Particularly for the people in Alheri special village who need access to WASH to stay alive.

Although there is visible water supply, the toilets in many of the homes visited are inadequate. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

The team observed that although there were visible signs of water supply, the toilets in many of the homes visited were inadequate and where available, they were in a poor state.

There is a permanent odour of overflowing sewage in the air and you never know if your next breath will take in the savoury aroma of a food seller’s rice and bean meal or the odour of a neighbour’s runaway sewage. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

Sanitation and hygiene facilities are some of the basic and necessary requirements for a household and the simple act of renovating the toilets in the community will help restore their human dignity and mitigate the outbreak of any infectious diseases.

Sanitation and hygiene facilities are some of the basic and necessary requirements for a household. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

Economic empowerment is key for human survival.
Leprosy can have a significant economic impact on individuals and their families owing to impairments associated with the condition. People may be unable to work or in some cases, may lose their jobs because of the stigma related to leprosy.

Acquiring soft skills may lead to getting decent work which is a great pathway of integrating people living with leprosy into the society and a mechanism for breaking the cycle of dependency. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

Acquiring soft skills may lead to getting decent work which is a great pathway of integrating people living with leprosy into the society and a mechanism for breaking the cycle of dependency, poverty and isolation normally associated with disability.

Economic empowerment can be a mechanism for breaking the cycle of dependency, poverty and isolation normally associated with disability. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

In the words of Malam Ali Isah, head of Alheri special village, “Yanayin mu yana wahalar da mu wajen yin tallace-tallace ko yin aiki yadda ya kamata, muna buƙatar ƙarfafa mu ta fuskar tattalin arziki don ba mu damar haɓaka yaranmu da ƙarfafa matasa a cikin al’ummarmu”. “Our condition makes it hard for us to do business or work as we ought to, we need to be empowered economically to enable us raise our children and empower the youth.”

Malam Ali Isah, head of Alheri special village, Yangoji, Kwali LGA, Federal Capital Territory Abuja. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and other relevant agencies must focus on equipping members of the Alheri community with appropriate skills and assistance that can enable them cater to their families and ultimately live dignified lives.

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and other relevant agencies must focus on equipping members of the Alheri community with appropriate skills. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch
While the community has a well-built primary and secondary school, the schools are understaffed and have no fencing. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch
Primary and secondary schools in Alheri community are in a functional state. Photo credit: Nigeria Health Watch

Access to education will provide the children in Alheri community with hope and will help tackle the vicious cycle of poverty that undermines their ability to be self-sufficient.

People suffering from leprosy should not be neglected. Public and private organisations and government at all levels must work together to ensure that the inhabitants of Alheri and other such communities in Nigeria live a dignified life, free from disease-related stigma.

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