The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country located in central Africa bordering such countries as Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, Angola and the Republic of the Congo.
It is a vast country with resources of potential wealth. Unfortunately recent civil wars have devastated the country causing famine and disease, and contributing to the deaths of five million people.
Leprosy is still prevalent and with many isolated areas throughout the country because of poor infrastructure, access is difficult.
Leprosy Control Program
The Leprosy Mission is working in partnership with the DR CONGO Government to detect and treat leprosy. The fear and stigma associated with leprosy causes many patients to hide out undiagnosed in remote areas. This tragically leads to severe disabilities and irreversible damage to their bodies unless they can get the medical treatment to stop progression of the disease.TLM is working hard to raise awareness and reduce fear so that help can be given to those affected, with the recent training of 132 doctors and nurses in leprosy diagnosis and treatment. The TLM program is considered one of the best health programs in the country.
Prevention of Disability (POD) and Rehabilitation
A new innovation to the program in DR has been the training of new physiotherapists to work in the POD program.
This has enabled a big increase in the number of patients being trained in how to care for their disabilities.
They have also been able to set up 30 self-care groups for peer support and encouragement within their communities.
Socio-Economic Rehabilitation (SER)
Socio-Economic Rehabilitation basically means restoring a person back to normal social status after suffering an injury or disease that has reduced their standing in the community.
This program is designed to resource the leprosy patient with the tools and training they need to set up their own business through rearing pigs, rabbits, & chickens, as well as vegetable cultivation and irrigation projects. It also can include micro-credit loans to help them get established. It basically helps them get back on their feet, and reduces the stigma from the community.
Approximately 600 people are now benefiting from micro-credit loans and receiving assistance with training in micro-credit. Work has commenced in 4 new zones, and workers have identified a noticeable reduction in stigma for those who are involved in the SER program.
Education of Children
When a parent is diagnosed with leprosy, it affects the whole family. Their standing in the community is often affected and their ability to earn an income often disappears without assistance. This domino effect in turn hinders their children from receiving any education, as school in DR Congo is not free.
Thankfully with the assistance of TLM, 130 leprosy-affected children received scholarships in the past year and were able to continue their education. This is particularly vital for girls, as their education is paramount in improving the health and quality of life into their future.