POST TIME: 24 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM
Awareness key to eliminate woes, say experts
BSS, Dhaka

Awareness key to eliminate woes, say experts

Rahima Khatun (not real name), resident of a village in Sirajganj district, was diagnosed with leprosy when she was just eight-year-old. She was cured of the disease as she took treatment timely.

She is not alone. There are many leprosy patients who got cured with timely treatment, which is available at all the upazila health complexes free of cost. Though curable and its test as well as treatment is available free of cost across the country, leprosy continues to inflict sufferings for us mainly due to lack of awareness among people.

Though women are found to have been affected less than male, the affected women are the worst sufferers. According to National Leprosy Elimination Programme (NLEP) and The Leprosy Mission International-Bangladesh (TLMI-B), annually on an average 4,000 new leprosy cases are detected in the country in the recent years. The disease is an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. If left untreated, it can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose (nasal mucosa), said Dr Biliom A Sangma, senior medical officer of TLMI-B.

Jiptha Boirage, programme support coordinator of TLMI-B, said woman

leprosy patients normally do not come to physicians unless the disease prevents them from carrying out their household chores. Women are not able to access medical care as easily or as soon as men due to cultural, socioeconomic and psychological constraints.

The socio-cultural factors related to gender roles and responsibilities inhibit women from accessing and controlling resources including decision on their personal health care and services.

The low status of women, lack of access to information and education about leprosy, the household chores of women or work load have their own negative bearing on women affected by leprosy. Therefore, women affected by leprosy do not give time and proper attention for medical checkup and timely treatment, observed Jiptha.

“If the women affected by leprosy is not treated or delayed to get proper

treatment, she will be exposed to disability. In most cases, the physical

impairment due to the disease provoked the stigmatized attitude and affects the psychological, economic and social well-being of the victims”. The stigmatised attitude strongly breaks the social bond and results in isolation and discrimination.

Not only for the disabled women in leprosy but also the women who are treated and cured from the disease do not escape from the social exclusion due to the deep-rooted misconception of leprosy. Moreover, a woman affected by leprosy lacks self-esteem to get involved in different social affairs such as different social gatherings with the other community members freely. As far as marriage problem is concerned, the situation of women with disabilities including women in leprosy cases is much more difficult, as marriages are mostly arranged.

Stereotyped concepts, prejudices and negative attitude towards disability are deep-rooted that they greatly influence these arrangements. The marital opportunities of females with disability are limited. Dr Shafiqul Islam, national programme manager of NLEP, said 3,729 people were affected by leprosy last year. Of them, 1,601 were females. He stressed on raising awareness on leprosy and its treatment facilities offered by the government. It will bring benefits to the women victims.

The government in cooperation with NGOs is implementing National Leprosy Elimination Programme (NLEP).