Mohammed gets a foot dressing from one of the nurses at Damien Foundation. Once every two weeks a mobile clinic visits the slum, where he lives with many other leprosy patients. They sit in a row, chatting and awaiting their turn. They obviously know each other well. There are 48 rooms for over 300 patients: an average of 7 people per room. “Privacy? There's none of that here!”. He laughs heartily.
Mohammed, who thinks he must be about sixty, is well educated. He studied at university and got a job at the Ministry of Education. But when he contracted leprosy in 1974 he was forced to leave his job. People with leprosy were stigmatised, and still are. “Life here isn't normal. We don't actually have contact with healthy people, except the people from Damien Foundation. In other words, we can't work. But Damien Foundation did give me a fridge, with which I can sell cold drinks and make something of an income here. Aside from that, we are dependent on the charity of other people, who bring us food now and then.”
The one area in which Mohammed has no complaints is love. “I already had the leprosy when I met my wife. But she wanted to marry me anyway! She even wanted to come and live with me, here in this slum full of leprosy sufferers! I'm a lucky man”, he says with a grin.
TEXTS: Wendy Huyghe
PHOTOS: Tim Dirven @T.Dirven for Damien Foundation