McKean Rehabilitation Center is in Chiang Mai in northern Thailand. It provides treatment and rehabilitation for leprosy patients and people with disabilities. Next year will mark 110 years of service.
Great advances in public health have been made because of an improvement to the access, quality and use of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. These three things can be recalled easily with the handy acronym WaSH (Water, Sanitation [and] Hygiene). In 2010 the Millennium Development Goals—the framework for global development—reached its target of supplying 90% of the world with safe drinking water. But there’s still a long way to go for sanitation and hygiene—the target for providing access to sanitation facilities was missed by 700 million people.
Neglected tropical diseases are a collection of eighteen devastating diseases. Leprosy is just one of them. Many of the diseases have confusing, unpronounceable names. This hasn’t exactly helped them get noticed by generous people willing to help out. So thank you for noticing this need. They are all caused by tiny creatures that damage the human body: bacteria, protozoans (single-celled animal-like creatures), worms and viruses. Leprosy is caused by the bacteria M.leprae and M.lepromatosis. The other diseases caused by bacterias are Buruli ulcer, Leprosy, Mycetoma, Trachoma and Yaws. Protozoans are the cause of Chagas disease, Leishmaniases and Sleeping sickness (Human African trypanosomiasis). Worms cause Echinococcosis, Foodborne trematodiases, Lymphatic filariasis, Schistosomiasis, Taeniasis and neurocysticercosis, Guinea worm disease (Dracunculiasis), River blindness (Onchocerciasis) and Soil-transmitted helminthiases. Viruses cause Dengue and Chikungunya, and Rabies. Australians don’t have to worry about these neglected tropical diseases too much. We generally have access to a robust health system and good living conditions–all factors that can keep outbreaks at bay. They still pop up here on occasion though. But they don’t need to be an urgent domestic priority for Australia.
Once someone develops a chronic condition (such as a loss of sensation) because of leprosy, they need to take regular care in all activities of daily living and work. Because this is such an extensive and life-long undertaking, it’s better for people affected by leprosy to take responsibility of their condition. This is why you support the implementation of Self Care and Self Help Groups in Timor Leste, Nepal, Nigeria and India. They’re small communities of people affected by leprosy who care, support and advocate for each other.