A message to you from a person affected by leprosy
Issa Harouna is a person affected by leprosy. He was diagnosed with leprosy at the young age of 10 years old, but he has a message about how we treat people affected by leprosy and how people affected by leprosy should see themselves.
Growing up with leprosy was painful for Issa
Issa grew up in a town called Danja, in Niger. At the age of 10 he noticed marks on his arm and was diagnosed with leprosy. Keeping up with taking his medication was difficult for a young boy like him.
“I went back to school after the summer and I noticed that my fingers were becoming deformed and were taking the form of claws. By the time I arrived at college my fingers were now permanently deformed and no one would go near me.
“I would approach groups during the lunch break and they would disperse. No one would touch me or eat with me or sit near me. In the canteen I knew I would be the last person to be served because no one would want to touch the cups and plates after I had.
“This treatment took away my desire to study. There’s an old African proverb, ‘When you are a giraffe, you can no longer be with sheep.’”
Issa left school and found a living in various jobs, facing discrimination along the way, but fortunately never as bad as the discrimination he faced at school. He married a woman who is not affected by leprosy and one day was approached by Yohanna from The Leprosy Mission Niger. He told him about an organisation called IDEA, which is an organisation of people affected by leprosy. Now he is the President of IDEA Niger and campaigns alongside The Leprosy Mission for people affected by leprosy.
Issa's message to people who aren't affected by leprosy
“I want people to change their attitudes towards people affected by leprosy. I want everyone to know that leprosy is like any other disease, it is curable and the cure is free of charge. There is no need to fear people affected by leprosy; this fear is based on incorrect beliefs.
“Please accept people affected by leprosy like any other human being. That is what I fight for as the President of IDEA Niger.”
Issa's message to people who are affected by leprosy
“People affected by leprosy must make sure they complete their treatment because it will cure you. Take good care of your bodies and keep any wounds clean. This will mean that you are not likely to face the troubles that I have faced with disability.
“But also, join the fight against leprosy by helping doctors and nurses to get medication to the people you lived and worked with before you started to receive leprosy treatment. That will mean that they can be given a medicine that will help to prevent them from developing the disease.
“Lastly, don’t forget the power of your voice and don’t be afraid to share your testimony. When we speak out we give a voice to people affected by leprosy, a group that has too long been silenced.”