By JOHN OA, Volunteer The Leprosy Mission Papua New Guinea
You may have read about my niece, Claire. She was diagnosed with leprosy at the same time as my brother Eddie (Claire’s father) when the Government’s Department of Health were conducting screening activities in our village.
She had developed light skin patches on her arms, which had no sensation (an early indication of leprosy). She was only nine years old at the time, which shows that leprosy is still being transmitted in our village.
In Papua New Guinea, up to 30% of new cases diagnosed each year are children like Claire.
Thankfully, Claire only needed to take six months of treatment, which she completed successfully. She has not developed any other symptoms. Praise God!
Unfortunately, Eddie needed treatment for leprosy reaction.
As a family, we all agreed that although the community knew about Eddie, we would keep Claire’s diagnosis and treatment a secret. She worried what her friends would say and do. She feared being teased.
To this day she hasn’t told her friends. Stigma and discrimination around the disease is still strong here and in surrounding areas.
But thanks to your support we are working to detect cases early and change community perceptions through education. And helping families with income generating activities.
Claire is hoping to help others in the future too. “One day I hope to become a teacher or a nurse,” she says. She wants to keep going to school, so she can get a good education. The challenge in our village is that the teachers will often not turn up to teach lessons. So we are uncertain whether she will be able to realise her dream.
Please continue to pray for Claire, our family, our village, and families just like ours in PNG. Pray also for The Leprosy Mission Papua New Guinea staff and volunteers as we work to stop leprosy transmission and transform lives in PNG.
Thank you for your support.
Come and meet John as he is traveling around Australia speaking at World Leprosy Day events throughout February. Go to leprosymission.org.au/events for the latest updates.