• Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Celebration of World Leprosy Day, 2024 edition


Feb 9, 2024

CIBITOKE, February 9th (ABP) – International Leprosy Day was celebrated on Wednesday, February 7, 2024, at the Kaburantwa medical center, in Buganda commune, Cibitoke province (north-west of Burundi), under the theme “Eliminate discrimination and stigma, embrace dignity.”

The ceremonies were honored with the presence of a representative of the Minister of Public Health and the Fight against AIDS, who is an advisor to the said ministry, Dr. Adeline Manirambona.

In her speech, the representative of the Minister in charge of Public Health declared that Burundi has made progress in the fight against leprosy, a disease caused by a so-called Hansen’s bacillus, which mutilates affected people.

However, new cases of leprosy continue to be recorded, according to the representative of the Minister responsible for Public Health. For instance, 400 new cases of leprosy were recorded in 2017 in Burundi, while in 2019, 415 new cases were recorded. In 2020, 407 cases were recorded, while in 2021, the ministry responsible for public health detected at least 467 new positive cases of leprosy, according to the same information source.

Noting that the number of lepers increases every year in the country, Dr. Manirambona invited new lepers to enlist in associations of people affected by the disease. However, the advisor to the Ministry in charge of Public Health deplored that 80% of people affected by this chronic skin infection have contagious leprosy. Among the latter, 15% reach the stage of losing even parts of their limbs.

                                                          Dr. Adeline Manirambona (left) giving aid to a leprosy patient

The representative of the Ministry of Public Health revealed that the choice of Cibitoke province to host the celebration of this Day was not made at random. This locality is one of the seven provinces of the country which host 80% of lepers. These are Cankuzo, Ruyigi, Rutana, Makamba, Rumonge, Cibitoke and Bubanza, according to the same source.

Dr. Manirambona called on Burundians not to delay being screened for this chronic skin infection, upon seeing the first signs of leprosy, which are spots on the skin. This was said at this time when the governor of Cibitoke province, in his welcome speech, specified that out of 31,700 people who were screened for leprosy in 2023, 13 cases were declared positive.

For the representative of the NGO Action Damien, Michel Sawodogo, who spoke on behalf of the international federation of associations against leprosy, of which Action Damien is a founding member, only the involvement of all, solidarity and mutual aid towards leprosy patients can help mitigate the burden of leprosy in Burundi. More than 200,000 cases are detected worldwide each year, according to Mr. Sawodogo, specifying that active transmission from a person affected by the disease occurs every three minutes, in nearly 145 countries.

Transmission does not stop and new cases detected worldwide are still a reality, with nearly three to four million people worldwide living with deficiencies and after-effects due to leprosy, he stressed.

Six African countries are the most affected, and the closest to Burundi are the DRC and Tanzania, he revealed. The consequence is that in the border provinces of those countries, leprosy is endemic and data from the National Integrated Leprosy and Tuberculosis Program (PNLT) show 467 new cases in 2021 and 497 in 2022, he said.

Mr. Sawodogo reported that the Global Leprosy Strategy 2021-2030 is moving towards zero leprosy (zero infection, zero disease, zero disability, zero stigma and zero discrimination) with the aim of eliminating leprosy.

As for Aïsha Ndimubandi, a patient who testified about the stigmatization and discrimination of leprosy patients, she asked lepers not to exclude themselves, but rather to go to healthcare facilities as soon as possible and join leprosy associations scattered throughout the province.

Note that the ceremonies ended with the distribution of food consisting of rice, beans and soap to 90 leprosy patients.