22 leprosy cases reported

Ongwediva-The country recorded about 22 leprosy cases between January and November last year, of which seven were from Oshana.

Four new cases were detected in pregnant women in Omusati between June 2016 and February 2017.

Between 1994 and 2014, 226 cases were recorded with many of the cases recorded in 2010 and 2013 respectively.

This revelation came at the fifth commemoration of World Leprosy Day held at Ongwediva on Thursday.

Despite the number of leprosy cases detected, many patients are not diagnosed in a timely manner, speakers at the event attested.

Equally, some patients frequent the hospital for up to four years without receiving the correct diagnosis, and health workers instead treat them for diabetes and hyper tension amongst other diseases.

Daniel Drake, a doctor from Omusati Region appealed to health workers to perform skin biopsies on patients who showed leprosy symptoms to ensure timely diagnoses and avoid deformities.

A person transmits leprosy when he or she comes into contact with another person, who then goes untreated for over a year.

It is transmitted through nose and mouth droplets.

Also speaking at the event, a leprosy patient, Leonard Kamati, appealed to health authorities to make leprosy medication accessible at clinics to cut the vast distances people have to travel to procure such medicines from the hospital.

Kamati like many other patients has been going to the hospital for about three years, but remained undiagnosed.

"I first went to the Onandjokwe hospital in 2013, but I was only given medicine and was sent home. And for years I would go to the hospital where health workers would prescribe medicine, until 2016 when a doctor decided to take a skin biopsy," Kamati said.

Kamati experienced tiredness, excessive sweating while sleeping and limb stiffness.

Oshana Health Director Johanna Haimene said the national TB and Leprosy programme, which set strategies to fight the two diseases is busy finalising the third midterm strategic plan and leprosy is a priority.

"Yes, we can beat leprosy as a country and our latest statistics show that," Haimene said.

Haimene represented the Minister of Health and Social Services at the event.

The Governor of Oshana Region, Clemens Kashuupulwa said that although we had made progress in the fight against leprosy, the country needed to enhance prevention and care strategies.

"Therefore as citizens and multi-sectoral stakeholders, we need to develop and implement prevention strategies and interventions that yield high impact and are cost effective," Kashuupulwa said.

He further called on the community to end the stigmatisation and exclusion of leprosy patients from social life.

"Leprosy can be defeated and those who have been cured of it can go back to living a normal life," Kashuupulwa added.

They commemorated the event under the theme 'I am loved, I have hope, but I need your help'.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia