Ana Cacunhõ, 52 years old, grew up in a remote village in Angola called Kalulu-Kuvango. She married and had three children. But when Ana became sick, her husband went away, so she decided to live close to her elder brother.
One day Ana noticed some nodules on her face that did not go away. A year later, light coloured patches appeared on the skin on her face and, after another six months, on her arms as well. For five years she did not follow any treatment, and the patches grew. So she tried different traditional remedies, and even travelled to the next district where a traditional healer gave her some treatment, but the patches only grew further. After two years of this treatment and no improvement she noticed her hands losing strength and becoming numb. This developed into disability with claw hands (when the fingers bend inwards and cannot straighten), which made the village chief and community want to expel Ana from the village.
ARPAL, an association of people affected by leprosy that TLM works with through SOLE Angola, was running an awareness campaign in the district. The traditional leader was surprised to hear that leprosy can be cured, and he invited the ARPAL team to see Ana. He brought together her family and the community to hear the team explain that leprosy can be cured, that there is no fear of transmission once treatment has started and so Ana can remain in her family. As the team explained self-care and how, kept up regularly, it could protect Ana from injury and further disability, the family came to embrace Ana and decided to support her in her self-care. The district nurse promised to visit Ana at least twice a month to encourage her.
Although Ana has a small field, she stopped cultivating because of the damage to her hands. Now with the benefits and protection of self-care she will be able to grow her own crops soon. Ana was so moved and encouraged. "I thank you all for coming to my village to bring me hope, care, and treatment," she said. "I know I can be cured and am no longer afraid to live alone, you have brought my family back to me!"