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Urges government to make laws to protect their rights

Adedayo Akinwale

Baffled with the lack of attention and support from the government to persons living with leprosy, the Junior Chamber International (JCI) said it was embarking on a nine-month advocacy campaign to stop stigmatisation against persons suffering from the ailment.

It added that the campaign was also meant to end discrimination against people affected with leprosy, as well as ensure that government make laws to protect the rights of people affected with the disease.

The 2016 National President of JCI, Mr. Olatunji Oyeyemi, disclosed this in Abuja at the Gala night of the Northern Conference of the group with the theme, ‘Lafiya Dole, Peace is Possible’, where he stated that over time, people living with leprosy have been neglected by the government, thus allowing them to rot away.

According to him, “If you look at all our environment today across the country, people living with leprosy cannot stay within the city, for other illness you can stay with your family and they will take care of you, but for people affected with leprosy, even when they are cured, they are seen as outcast, they are sent out of the communities, they live miserable lives, and government is not paying attention, community is not paying attention. We should regard these people as one of us that should not be thrown away especially when they are cured.”

He added, “We are using this campaign to tell government to make laws to protect the rights of people affected or living with leprosy because they are also human, they have the right to life, good medical care, their children which most times are being neglected to stay with them in camp have the rights to go to school, this campaign is sustainable, we are going to be doing this for nine months and we will take this message to the nooks and crannies of the country.”

Oyeyemi expressed optimism that the campaign that started in July and would end in March 2017 is achievable, stressing that JCI was partnering with the Nigeria Medical Association, the Nursing Council, the Nigeria Bar Association, as well as international partners and donors to make the campaign a success.
He emphasised that the network of JCI members across the country would be running the campaign, noting “we are not going to be running this campaign just because it is a campaign to end leprosy, but we are running this campaign to end stigmatisation of people affected with leprosy, what we are saying is that when a leprosy patient is cured people should not have any fear to relate with them.”

The president revealed JCI has adopted two strategy; “one, we are working with the press, we have a jingle that we have already finish the production to be running in different languages and on different radio stations across the country; we have a documentary to highlight the plight of people affected with leprosy in Nigeria, the documentary will be taken to major T.V channels in Nigeria so that they can run it on daily or weekly bases.”

Aside this, Oyeyemi said JCI would train over 10,000 youths on the effect of leprosy in the community, noting that they are going to be picked across the country.

He said further that the campaign would be executed in phases and a sum of $53, 000 would be required for the campaign, adding that JCI already have $17,000 to kick start it.

Meanwhile, the 2016 President, JCI Abuja Unity, Mr. Oshode Sylvester said the campaign being a national programme would be executed through the local organisations, adding that his chapter would be participating in the execution of the programme.

To set the ball rolling, he noted that his team had already visited the leprosy camp in Abuja which currently has 120 persons, stressing that the affected persons were happy that JCI is bringing their plight to the fore