Yesterday, October 20th, Gede Foundation had a sit down with The Leprosy Mission Nigeria (TLMN). The meeting included Dr. Moses Onoh - Country Director of TLMN, Mr. Terver Anyor - Funds Development Manager, Mr.Gareth Shrubsole - Programme Officer, TLM (England and Wales), Aminu Ahmed, a survivor of leprosy, Mr. Godwin Etim - Performance Director: Resource Mobilisation and Partnership Management(Gede Foundation) and Mrs. Zunzika Thole - Okpo, Media Officer for Gede Foundation.
The team from TLMN talked about the stigma still surrounding leprosy and how they can increase awareness about the disease. They went further to discuss socioeconomic issues surrounding leprosy and their holistic approach towards treating it. In line with this, they sought some expertise from Gede Foundation on Mental Health. Dr. Moses, and rightly so, noted that empirically, the two organisations are doing the same job. He went on to say that the health burdens that the Foundation has undertaken are rife with stigma and so is leprosy.
Sufferers of leprosy often face stigma and discrimination. Sometimes, they may even stigmatise themselves (keep themselves in seclusion so as not to be seen or pointed at). Mr. Shrubsole suggested that perhaps there could be a self care group where users can talk to each other about what they go through with their illness. Mr. Etim informed the meeting that some users that have been enrolled in the BasicNeeds project do have Self Help Groups.
Going forward, perhaps Gede and Leprosy Mission can have a partnership that can try to bring leprosy ‘out of the shadows’. An integration of mental health into leprosy treatment will be closer to the holistic approach the Leprosy Mission uses in treatment and care of its patients. It will not only encompass the physical, but the mental as well.