Nigeria – Leprosy Still a Stigma

Damien Foundation Nigeria


Mobile Clinic in the Slums

Two fully loaded pick-up trucks belonging to Damien Foundation stop at the entrance to the Okobaba slum in the capital city of Lagos. Doctors, nurses and a translator carry the medicine and other medical equipment through the maze of alleyways, deep into the heart of the slum. From seemingly nowhere, a gang of children comes running with plastic chairs and tables. They know what's needed, because the people around here are familiar with the Damien Foundation team: they have come twice a month, since 2013, to provide medical care for the area's 300 or more leprosy patients

damien foundation - 25 years in Nigeria - Leprosy
After a few minutes’ walk the team arrives at what looks like a slum inside a slum. This is where the leprosy patients live, along with all the other social pariahs: people with disabilities, sight impairments, paralysed limbs, … And as the residents are almost unable to leave camp, the mobile clinic comes to them. Prior to 2013 no one showed any concern at all.

In next to no time the doctors and nurses have set up a tent, where they are ready to hold consultations. They listen to general complaints from the leprosy patients and their families and dispense drugs for malaria and other illnesses. Meanwhile, another team dresses the wounds of the leprosy patients.

The leprosy patients sit in a row, waiting for their fortnightly foot-bath. They chat away while the nurses scrape dead tissue from the wounds, which frequently cover about a third of the foot and look horrific. Their feet are then disinfected and the wounds are dressed. It can take up to three years for a wound to heal. The wounds aren't painful, because the patients have lost feeling in their feet due to the nerve damage. This is why they often fail to notice that their wounds are infected. Many of the residents get by with a prosthesis and crutches donated by Damien Foundation. Despite this fortnightly care, there are times when amputation cannot be avoided.

TEXTS: Wendy Huyghe
PHOTOS: Tim Dirven @T.Dirven for Damien Foundation

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