The Junior Chamber International, Nigeria (JCI) in collaboration with NIPPON Foundation has announce the start of a nationwide campaign tagged ‘Think Leprosy Now’ aimed at raising awareness on the discrimination and stigma faced by people affected by leprosy in Nigeria.
Speaking at a press briefing to Kick-start the campaign, Mr. Olatunji Oyeyemi, President, JCI Nigeria, said, “We are delighted to be involved in the campaign to ensure that individuals live with dignity. The campaign is part of the NIPPON Foundation global appeal ‘Think Leprosy Now’ campaign and we are glad to be able to work with them to bring a change to how the disease and people living with it are perceived.”
“A lot of Nigerians do not know that leprosy is a curable disease and this has resulted in unnecessary stigmatisation of victims. If the public understands the disease better, people affected with leprosy will feel freer to seek treatment at most general hospitals where treatment is free instead of segregating themselves. As young people we would educate our peers nationwide in order to establish a society that is compassionate towards people affected by leprosy,” He added.
He disclosed that JCI will connect with like-minded organisations, like IDEA Nigeria, who already have programmes aimed at bringing succour to people leaving with leprosy and their families locally. Some of the programmes planned for the ‘Think Leprosy Now’ campaign includes leprosy orientation training for youths, nationwide awareness campaign, and production of a documentary highlighting the effects of leprosy in rural areas.
Also speaking at the press briefing, Mr. Ahmed Muhammed, National Chairman, IDEA Nigeria, said, “Leprosy is a disease that can be managed and treated but due to the high level of discrimination, most patients are ashamed of coming out for treatment. In the rural areas, most people do not know the symptoms and as such they are most often disabled before they realise they are affected. If it is discovered and treated early most of the effected people will avoid the resultant disability that comes with it.”
Continuing, he said, “The disease not only impact the sufferers but also their families as they unable to work and take care of their healthy children who often times have to go into isolation with them in communities set up for them. Even when some are completely cured, the disability from the disease which they’ve already overcome makes people still discriminate against them leading to inability to find jobs and provide for the families.”
He disclosed that IDEA Nigeria has been involved in identifying people affected with the disease in rural areas and directing them to free treatment centres in most general hospitals to avoid the disability lack of early treatment can cause. He pointed out that most people affected by the disease also have a tendency to discriminate against themselves which often leads them to segregate themselves and avoid help.
JCI will be using its active citizen framework to bring stakeholders like government, the Nigerian MedicalAssociation and the business community to collaboration as it seeks to demonstrate the power of youth in creating positive change in the face of societal challenges.
NIPPON Foundation is a Japan based private, non-profit grant-making organization that aims at achieving a society where people support each other, reducing the burden and challenges face together through social innovation.