By Henry Uche
With an annual new case detection of 4000 people, a Grade 2 disability rate of 12 per cent, and nearly 10 per cent child ratio among new cases, leprosy remains a disease of health importance in Nigeria. Faced with the reality of low endemicity; a declining budgetary allocation to leprosy control; and a pervasive loss of expertise; it is necessary for Nigeria to re-organise its leprosy control services to further reduce the burden of the disease and ensure quality care to people affected by leprosy.
In this interview, the Project Coordinator, Charity Care Network, Chukwuemeke Washington Uba also a documentary photographer, gives more insight as it affects public health.
Leprosy and it’s seemingly danger
Notice that leprosy is no longer an issue of Public health concern. I think that was in 2010, so many people, government agencies and non-governmental organisation (NGOs) relaxed and the disease had an upsurge in 2016 but the World Health Organisation (WHO) document revealed that there are over 200,000 new cases, globally that is not very interesting, and if you look at it in the ratio level, that means, 50 people have leprosy a day. Then imagine such an ailment that has been defeated. Today it’s now posing danger to mankind, that is why we are doing what we are doing to contribute our quota to create more awareness so that government, stakeholders and policy makers should go back to the drawing board and finally clean up the slate for leprosy issues. Look at polio for instance, in how many years polio was defeated because of concerted effort by the government and major NGOs as well donor agencies, yes leprosy has people like; Nipon, Japan, Sasacaws, Nuvatis, they have been brain behind struggle and support to that the oldest disease becomes a thing of the past. But ironically, other agencies, government bodies globally and locally have not seen it as an issue, and leprosy as a disease has one of the most devastating characteristics health-wise. It takes off their limbs, their hands, and sometimes it makes them senile. It breaks the body system, they have diahorea and all serious ailments and deformities. Look at the ratio now, in Nigeria as it is, we have about 4,000; these are the ones that came out for diagnosis but because of the stigma, it has made it very difficult for affected people to come out and say they are affected. But the earlier they come out the better for them because at that time, there is no deformity or disability which increases the stigmatisation. So early diagnosis is one of the reasons why people are still having this and if we’re not careful, the graph would remain on upward slope and human nature might be in trouble in the nearest future if nothing is done.
What did you do this year, what is your theme and what is the essence of that theme?
Well the theme of this year’s World Leprosy Day is, “Killing the Entrepreneur.” The theme sounds off the radar of what you could say of people who have health challenges or those in the colonies trying to etch a living by struggling with this ailment. But having done this project for about a decade, seven years of documentaries, this is the third year we are exhibiting, so all together it’s 10 years. After going into the colonies, now what we have is what we brought out. Now in this aspect, I will use Uzuakoli as a case study. In the colonies they were self sustaining, and in the world today. Entrepreneur, is it only abled -men who are entrepreneurs? There are still some people who are disabled that can still contribute to gross domestic product (GDP), people like the leprosy affected patient. In Uzuakoli they have tailoring centers, carpentering, artificial limbs factory, oil mill, brick industry and skills acquisition. All thses they were doing them all and selling out to the outside world too, that is where the impact of the GDP comes in. Now this image, this facilities are dilapidated, in the marinborn states nothing is happening there again. So the entrepreneurs who has leprosy those who have skills in tailoring even when their leprosy patient or all these not certified healthy, cannot have a means of livelihood by contributing their own quota into the graft of entrepreneurial skill GDP and self sustainable development. So the reason I had to bring it to the foreign to make it known to the public that if you don’t want to go and see these people, the government can revitalize the palm industries and others so that they can be self sustaining and contribute immensely to the society where they belong too. So that’s where the kill the entrepreneur comes, when the facilities and other necessities they need are dilapidated and nobody cares you find out that the spirit of entrepreneurial in them will die. So automatically we have killed the entrepreneur.
You have done this for several years and have been celebrating the world leprosy day. This is a road less travelled by many, nobody wants to associate with people suffering from leprosy, or those certified not healthy, it must have been challenging moments for u, give us a sense of what you have passed through all these while?
If you say challenges, honestly I don’t believe in those challenges. It’s part of what people have to do. According to Enesrto Chie, when he was talking to them, during the Cuba uprising against the American government, he said, “in nay great work, there must be passion which must come in large doses for any great work to be seen.” Whatever we are doing we should be passionate about it and live it. Because everyone has his contribution to make. Politicians, medical practitioners, psychiatrists, others are doing theirs. So people should be in leprosy too even though they are not much. But we have to do what we do and there’s none of these human endeavor that does not have challenges and stress is part of life. If you struggle with stress it would kill you because it has always been there. So we go about our own business trying to contribute our own quota, Albert Estein, the Isaac Newton did his own etc. So we should do our own irrespective of whatever challenges we are faced with. If there is no thorn there is no crown. So I don’t see these as challenge, when we have agreed to follow the path, the path it’s own uphill, the up and down sides and the level ground where what we are pursuing is actualized leads becomes successful and at the end of the day nobody bothers about the stress one has gone through. Having done seven years documentaries in colonies, yet it is not easy but documentary if you are doing it you should know what it takes to go into documentary. It shouldn’t cry to anyone because you went into it yourself and you know what you were going to meet, so for me, it’s worthwhile and we are making progress, that’s the point and purpose of what we are doing.