Rufiji Leprosy Trust is a charitable trust supporting the Kindwitwi Leprosy Care Centre in the Rufiji area of Tanzania.
The care centre assists in:
~ finding and treating people living with leprosy in the Rufiji area
~ supporting people all people affected by leprosy throughout the Rufiji area
~ promoting self-sufficiency of people living with leprosy and their families.
As leprosy is curable, many think the disease is no longer a problem, however it is listed as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) by the World Health Organisation, which means it is especially common in some of the world’s poorest areas.
The Trust prides itself on being totally managed by volunteer Trustees; the only paid employees are those who carry out the Trust’s work in Tanzania.
Last month, our co-chair Dr Sarah Feather presented at seminar hosted by the Britain Tanzania Society.
Entitled ‘Leprosy in Rural Tanzania: Detection, Treatment and Overcoming the Stigma’, Dr Sarah Feather talked about leprosy and some of the issues faced at both a global and local level.
“Although the burden of leprosy globally is carried by Indonesia, India and Brazil, the disease still has a significant prevalence across Africa. 2422 new cases were detected in Tanzania in 2105,” said Dr Feather. “Nationally this is not at a level where leprosy is formally classed as a public health problem, but there are some districts where prevalence is above the rate of 1 in 10,000 population, notably Liwale and Lindi.”
95% of people have a natural immunity to leprosy and it is not easily transmitted. It can remain in the body for up to twenty years before showing itself as a numb patch or an area of loss of skin pigment. It often goes unnoticed until the more serious complications, such as loss of sensation at the finger tips start to develop. By this time people affected are at high risk of disability as loss of feeling makes them more vulnerable to injuries which eventually leads to loss of fingers and toes.
The District TB and Leprosy co-ordinators have to ensure staff in rural dispensaries can recognise early signs of the disease; a further challenge for them is ensuring people with the disease complete their treatment, which is a six or twelve-month course of antibiotic, depending on disease severity at presentation. The Tanzanian government has invested significant resources making sure the supply of drugs to treat leprosy and complications of treatment is robust.
“There are still many myths surrounding the disease with some people still believing it is caused by witchcraft and that it is incurable. Historically villages would cast out anyone who became affected by the disease which increased the stigma attached to the disease,” she said.
“We can all help reduce the stigma associated with the disease by avoiding using the term ‘leper’ when referring to people affected by leprosy. It is an outdated term associated with stigma and being out an outcast. Modern reality is that once diagnosed with leprosy people can receive treatment in their home, be supported learn how to prevent development and progression of disabilities and continue to live and work in their community.”
Dr Feather outlined the ongoing work of The Rufiji Leprosy Trust was set up over thirty years ago to build on the work started by Father Robin Lamburn in the village of Kindwitwi.
“Currently it supports elderly villagers who are so disabled from the effects of leprosy that they are unable to care for themselves. It supports those who can work with agricultural projects and, via a kindergarten and secondary school sponsorship, ensures children from families affected by leprosy have full educational opportunities. It funds a shoemaker to provide bespoke shoes for those with foot disabilities,” she said.
Although nationally the challenge of disease detection and support of those affected by leprosy is still significant, much progress has been made in the past ten years towards elimination of the disease as public health problem.
After the presentation, attendees discussed some of the issues raised.
Once again, we are very grateful to the Britain Tanzania Society for giving us the opportunity to talk about the work we do in Kindwitwi.
Further leprosy statistics can be found on the WHO website.Click to read full story
Hear our Co-chair, Dr Sarah Feather talk about Leprosy in Rural Tanzania: Detection, Treatment and Overcoming the Stigma at a seminar hosted by the Britain Tanzania Society.
Dr Feather visited Kindwitwi in 1983 with a group of young people from the Diocese of Hereford, then did her medical student elective in the village, and has been returning on and off ever since. She became a trustee in 1989.
Details of the event:
Date: 6th March 2017
Time: 5pm to 7pm
Location: School of Oriental and African Studies, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
There is no need to book in advance – but it would assist in planning if you could let Andrew Coulson know you are coming – email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Britain Tanzania Society was founded in 1975 to improve communications and understanding between the UK and Tanzania. It is a non-political, non-governmental organisation, which aims to increase mutual knowledge, understanding and respect between the peoples of Britain and Tanzania through seminars, events and publications, and through the development of education, health, water and sanitation and other self-help community development activities and the promotion of gender equality.
If you are unable to attend the event, click here to see it streamed live.
Thank you Britain Tanzania Society for giving us the opportunity to talk about leprosy in Tanzania.Click to read full story
This year World Leprosy Day falls on Sunday 29 January 2017.
The day was established by Raoul Follereau in 1954 as a way to raise global awareness of this deadly ancient disease and call attention to the fact that it can now be prevented, treated and cured.
World Leprosy Day is on the Sunday nearest to 30 January. This date was chosen in commemoration of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948.
During his lifetime, this Indian freedom fighter worked tirelessly towards improving the lives of people living with leprosy and to reduce the stigma associated with the disease.
Some leprosy statistics from around the world:
- According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of new cases around the world was more than 200.
- Nearly 19,000 children were diagnosed with leprosy in 2015 - that's more than 50 a day.
- It's estimated up to 3 million people are living with leprosy-related diseases globally.
- In 2015, the countries with the highest number of new diagnoses were India, Brazil and Indonesia.
Did you know leprosy has an incubation period of up to 20 years and 95 per cent of people have a natural immunity to leprosy?
Check how much do you know about the disease by taking the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations World Leprosy Quiz.
Click here to take the quiz.Click to read full story