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.
Leprosy can affect people physically, but it can also destroy their psychological and social health. This damage is a result of stigma—the disgrace that people experience as a result of having leprosy.
Domingos and his son Delvio Da Silva are pictured above in front of their new toilet. They are members of the Raitaho Self Help Group, in Timor Leste. The group formed when two other Self Help Groups merged last year. They meet once a month and have 17 members.
It's true that Buruli ulcer is on the rise in Australia. But the risk of getting Buruli ulcer in Australia is very low—even in those areas where the disease is found. If you have traveled in regions or countries where Buruli ulcer is endemic (the Mornington Peninsula, Bellarine Peninsula, Bairnsdale, Western Port and Phillip Island, the Frankston–Seaford area and the Daintree region) and think you may have an ulcer, consult your medical professional. But our health system is able to manage a rise of Buruli ulcer, even if the treatment is complicated.
Since The Leprosy Mission began in 1878, prayer has always been of central importance. Old annals and letters are full of appeals for prayer. One of the founding members, Wellesley Bailey, returned to prayer on all matters of his work. In his retiring speech, he famously noted: "The Mission was born and cradled in prayer, it has been brought up in prayer, it has been nourished in prayer, and prayer has been at the bottom of its success since the first moments of its life. We feel we owe all, under God, to the prayer of people who have been guided by His Holy Spirit… I feel very keenly today that so much depends upon a continual waiting upon God; the living prayer of Christian people that we should be led and guided by prayer."
Some of you will have already heard the story how The Leprosy Mission started. It’s a timeless drama—Christlike compassion inspiring everyday people to respond to a great need. Often it’s just a story that starts and ends with Wellesley Bailey (top-right). But the story is actually bigger than that. There were many people that helped make The Leprosy Mission what it is today. One of these people was Dr Morrison. Alice Grahame was another (top-left). Charlotte Pim, and her two sisters Isabella and Jane, were also central. But we’ll get to them a bit later.