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Labake Fashogbon
A Japan based foundation, Nippon, in collaboration with Junior Chambers International, Nigeria, JCI, a non profit organisation, is set to put an end to the discrimination and stigmatisation suffered by people who are affected and living with leprosy in Nigeria.

This was revealed at a press conference put together by the partnering body in Nigeria, JCI when its National President, Olatunji Oyeyemi, announced that plans have been concluded to kick off a nationwide campaign geared at sensitising Nigerians and persons affected by the disease.

According to the President of the non profit organisation, the level at which those affected were being stigmatised in this part of the country reveals that not too many people were well informed about the ailment.

He said: “Today, leprosy is a highly treatable disease. With prompt diagnosis and a regimen of effective drugs, it is no longer the disabling malady it once was. Yet, despite advances on the medical front, discrimination against those affected by the disease, even those who have made a full recovery has persisted around the world.

“This reflects the long history of social isolation forced upon patients affected by the disease and their family members. Before the disease became curable, those infected by leprosy were often scarred and disfigured, and these people were treated contemptuously around the world. This discrimination stemmed from misconceptions about the disease, which is not highly infectious.

Explaining further, Oyeyemi who reiterated the fact that leprosy was curable, noted that the exercise will be executed under the JCI active citizen platform, JCI Effort to Eradicate Leprosy Stigma (JEELS), and would carry along major players and partners including Integration Dignity and Economic Advancement (IDEA),Nigerian Medical Association ( NMA), Nigerian Bar Association(NBA),The Leprosy Mission Nigeria(TLM), The Federal Ministry of Health, among others .

“We shall take action to fight stigma and discrimination faced by people living or who have been affected by leprosy across all sectors.

“The programmes will include an awareness campaign, leprosy orientation training for youths, a nationwide media campaign and the creation of a documentary illustrating today’s effect of leprosy in rural areas. We will as well provide public education on the need to engage in constant medical test so that the disease is detected and treated early as well as helping to reintegrate victims back into the society,” he pointed out.

Executive Secretary of JCI Nigeria, Folakemi Olajiga, disclosed that Nippon Foundation has provided all that were needed to execute the project, including a grant, amounting to $57,000.

The foundation has been at the forefront of the global campaign to eliminate leprosy and also end the discrimination against those affected by the disease.