The challenge of leprosy support in one of the world’s largest countries

08 November 2019

The challenge of leprosy support in one of the world’s largest countries

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a beautiful country of around 95 million people, a significantly larger population than countries such as Germany, France and Canada. DR Congo actually has the 16th largest population on the planet.

DR Congo is also a country that has seen several civil wars within living memory and has struggled to achieve political stability as the nation contends with lawlessness and corruption. Within that context, 3,323 individuals faced a leprosy diagnosis in DR Congo last year and many more are living with the consequences of a leprosy diagnosis in years gone by.

Accessing support is a serious problem

DR Congo is the 11th largest country in the world, which means that accessing healthcare can be very difficult for some of the most remote members of the population. One of the places that TLM Congo works is the Isle of Idjwi, which has no transport means at all. Our staff member there is called Emmanuel (pictured above) and his work to reach people across the Isle is incredibly difficult.

The Congolese are also a people that are largely living in poverty, which creates further problems for accessing medical treatment. People affected by leprosy do not have easy access to medical support such as drug treatments and medical professionals. Sadly, they are also often discriminated against by the people around them.

Congo provides a lot of distractions from leprosy

As of October 2019, the WHO says that Ebola in DR Congo still qualifies as a global emergency. The presence of Ebola, as well as AIDs and other diseases, means that the Congolese Government is having to focus its attention elsewhere and the thousands of people living with leprosy and its consequences are sadly neglected.

In the face of challenges such as these, The Leprosy Mission’s team in Congo are determined to reach all people affected by leprosy in DR Congo and help them to live full and happy lives. One of the ways that this is happening is through OPALCO, which is the newly established Leprosy Peoples’ Association in DR Congo. Through this group, people affected by leprosy are given a voice with local governments and the national government to ensure they are not discriminated against. We are working with OPALCO to ensure they have training to make them effective in this work.

Our Congolese team are having a profound effect

Sabuni is our Country Leader in DR Congo and his team are reaching out to provide leprosy treatment and assistive devices to people affected by leprosy.

One key part of the work involves case detection, something that our team supports the government with. If we are able to discover cases of leprosy in communities, particularly in remote places that are at risk of being neglected, we can provide people with leprosy treatment before the disease has a chance to cause life-limiting disabilities. Churches are also being mobilised to increase case detection and fight stigma.

One of our staff recently ran a leprosy awareness outreach programme in Sankuru and, in just 5 days, he was able to diagnose 70 new cases of leprosy. Now all of these people are receiving treatment.

On top of the case detection work, our team also run self-help groups. The idea is that communities will be able to provide the solutions to their own problems. We provide skills and education training that is specifically designed to help people affected by leprosy enter into the jobs market or create their own start-ups. Our aim is to ensure that people affected by leprosy are able to earn enough money to cover the costs of their own living and that of their families.

Because of this wonderful work, the people of DR Congo have a lot of trust in our team. They are a team that are working in a difficult place, with people that are at risk of being forgotten, and they are bringing the light of God.

If you would like to support this work, you can donate here >