By Wole Mosadomi, Minna
Persons affected by leprosy live miserable life. They are abandoned by family and government thinks it owes them nothing. Everyone keeps them at an arm’s length because of the fear that leprosy is infectious and incurable.
But just like many other deadly diseases, leprosy is now curable, especially when detected early as can be seen in Minna Leprosarium, which has been in existence for over 50 years taking care of people suffering from the disease from all over the country.
But the once thriving centre has become a shadow of itself.
Situated in an isolated area on the outskirts of Minna, Niger State capital, the road leading to the facility is bad and the leprosarium itself without functional infrastructure while the environment is surrounded by bush.
The situation exposes inmates to danger as reptiles including snakes crawl into the wards.
The only organisations who appear to care about the Minna Leprosarium are the Leprosy Mission of Nigeria (TLM) and the T.Y. Danjuma Foundation as they show love to the inmates in their own little way.
A former Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, also remembers the inmates especially during Muslim festivities when he fetes them. Some Christian bodies also visit them occasionally to put smile on their faces.
When Sunday Vanguard visited the leprosarium recently, the inmates’ story remained as pathetic as it used to be.
There were only eight inmates – four males and four females.
We saw only three of the male inmates, Garba Kotiho, Mohammed Abubakar, David Felix, while the fourth was said to have gone on a walk.
The female inmates seen were identified as Halinatu Alhassan, Helen Makuns, Aisha Abdullahi and Rashidat Abdullahi.
It was learnt that the food contractor engaged by the state government to supply food to the inmates had stopped doing so because he was being owed.
Besides the food challenge and the poor environment, some of the drugs and other items they need are not available thereby making their treatment very difficult and could lead to complications.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that most of the drugs prescribed for the inmates are now being purchased by them depending on their financial capability.
The drugs were listed to include Purit, Easal Lotion among others.
The place lacked toilet facilities, forcing the inmates to go into the bush to defecate.
The leprosarium is far from development because people are deliberately avoiding building houses close to them so as not to be infected despite the sensitization that the disease is not contagious and curable.
Power outage is also an issue in Minna Leprosarium as it neither gets supply from the public source nor a functional generator.
“Our stay here has not been easy but all of us here presently have no option than to remain because we don’t have anywhere else to go. It is like we have been left to die”, one of the inmates told Sunday Vanguard.
“This is our last hope and we are praying that government will one day come to our rescue because we are part of the society and we should be adequately catered for, even more than the able-bodied in their respective homes”.
Meanwhile, TLM is giving succour to the inmates.
Head of Programmes and Operations of TLM in Nigeria, Dr.Pious Ogwu Sunday, in an interview, said the Mission had released money to provide food and drugs for inmates to augment whatever government is providing.
“As I am talking, the Mission has released money to purchase drugs and the drugs are kept by us in agreement with the leprosarium management and dispensed to them on demand for record purpose”, he stated.
“We have also released money for the inmates’ feeding to replenish what is in store. By Monday (tomorrow), the drugs and foodstuff would have arrived”.
Sunday said the drugs and foodstuff were expected to last the inmates more than two months and will be replenished as soon as they are out of stock.
According to him, the Mission has also mobilised volunteers to visit the leprosarium regularly carry and help to keep the environment clean.