Nigeria – Leprosy Still a Stigma

Damien Foundation Nigeria


Right to Basic Comfort

It is shortly after noon and the residents of the leprosy camp in Oyon are resting in the shade of their home. There is a pleasant atmosphere about the place. Alani is helping his friend Ayo to shave. Since the leprosy deformed his hands Ayo has found it difficult to shave himself. Most people live alone, because they left families back home. If things go well they can expect a visit once or twice a year.

Damien Foundation in Nigeria. Patients suffering from leprosy, and the patients’ families.
“We renovated the camp a short while ago”, says Doctor Dairo of Damien Foundation. “There was nothing here before 2012: no running water, no electricity, no toilets. Now everyone has their own house, a clean home and a good roof over their head. We opened a recreational room too. In the day it is used for leprosy training courses. In the evening the residents come to watch television.”

The fact that this is not the situation everywhere can be seen further up the road, in the only section which is yet to be renovated: a few leprosy patients are still living in dark, decaying hovels. “In the rainy season, the rain just blows in”, complains Abigail, a very bright-minded woman despite her advancing years. “I was bitten by rats last night.” Abigail has been crippled by leprosy and has to drag herself along the hard, dirty ground on her stomach. “For years the people in this camp have had to live in degrading conditions. We will be moving Abigail and her neighbours to a new section as soon as possible”, says Doctor Dairo.

Living conditions in other colonies are not a scrap better, unfortunately, and the slum in the city of Lagos takes the biscuit. This place looks every inch a garbage dump. There is no running water, no waste collection; there are open sewers, in which the children play, and there are frequent power cuts. Hygiene is non-existent. The ‘ordinary’ slums appear luxurious compared to the small, dark hovels in which these people live: there are 48 rooms between 300 patients, or an average of 7 people per room. Comfort and privacy are unheard of. The stench is unbearable.

“It is scandalous how these people are simply left to their fate”, says Doctor Osman, director of Damien Foundation Nigeria. “Actually, the whole of this area should be cleaned up.” Damien Foundation has plans for a sanitation project involving sewers, clean water and plumbing. The organisation would also like to improve the run-down hovels and give them a fresh coat of paint.

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

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