Leprosy Control Project in Western Province

Papua New Guinea

The Leprosy Mission Australia is partnering with The Leprosy Mission PNG on a new project, ‘Leprosy Support in Western Province’. This project operates in the Western Province, where villages and health clinics are often remotely located and difficult to access. Often it is very difficult to both reach leprosy patients – people like Lily (read her story below). Ensuring local health workers have leprosy knowledge is also a challenge.

This project seeks to train health workers at the clinical level in leprosy diagnosis, treatment and management, to ensure every clinic across Western Province has two health workers with leprosy expertise. The project will also monitor MDT supply, and train community members to spread awareness about leprosy, and other health issues.

Lily’s story

Lily is a young girl from Papua New Guinea.  She lost two toes on one foot and had a terrible ulcer on the other due to leprosy. Lily was doing well on Multi-Drug Therapy and had begun home schooling so she can finish her education. Unfortunately, some of her ulcers wouldn’t heal.  Despite receiving shoes and bandages to assist with self-care, Lily’s ulcer never healed. Finally, Lily was in so much pain her leg had to be amputated.

If only Lily been found andtreated earlier, she would have been cured and may still have her right foot. However, there’s still hope for Lily. First came crutches for Lily. PNG Country Leader Natalie Smith says:“I went to the hospital to teach her how to use them and to practice going up and down stairs… The hospital only provides one meal a day for patients so we helped to buy food… so she was getting enough nutrition to help the amputation heal up quickly.”  Natalie says they’re helping Lily get approved and fitted for a prosthetic leg. With physio and practice, she will one day walk again.

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The Leprosy Mission in Papua New Guinea

The Leprosy Mission’s involvement in Papua New Guinea began in the mid 1960s. Twenty years later the emphasis evolved from a purely medical, hospital-based perspective to a new focus of training health staff in leprosy health awareness and setting up field control programs.

The Leprosy Mission has helped reduce the medical, social and economic burden of leprosy. It provided medical treatment to people affected by leprosy and helped improve the detection and management of new cases (which also limits the spread of the disease). The Leprosy Mission also provided opportunities for people affected by leprosy to gain paid employment and exercise their rights as citizens.

The Leprosy Mission Papua New Guinea has successfully secured five years of institutional funding from the New Zealand government (MFAT) for a replacement project called the Sustainable Livelihoods Development (SLD) project which commenced in 2017. This project has more of a community development focus, training local communities affected by leprosy on income-generating activities as well improved health awareness and practices regarding the disease.

The needs of people affected by leprosy in Papua New Guinea are great.

The prevalence of registered leprosy cases has increased from  381 in 2014 to at least 658 in 2015, with another 388 new cases diagnosed. This is a great concern.

Country Leader for The Leprosy Mission Papua New Guinea, Natalie Smith, says this increase is because a pool of cases have remained undetected for almost ten years.

Your support has helped detect these cases. Thank you!

Now, more than ever, we need to continue supporting people affected by leprosy in Papua New Guinea. Your support helps makes sure that cases are found and that people affected by leprosy can secure a sustainable income in remote regions.

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