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Uba’s documentary lifts leprosy awareness with canvas against discrimination

By Maria Diamond
03 February 2019   |   2:00 am
It has become a tradition for Nigeria to join the rest of the world in commemorating days for certain challenging ailments. ‘World Leprosy Day’ was celebrated last Sunday, January 27, 2019 in Lagos, and it had as theme, Zero Discrimination to Stigmatisation.

A man afflcited with leprosy (AFP Photo/Ye Aung Thu)

It has become a tradition for Nigeria to join the rest of the world in commemorating days for certain challenging ailments. ‘World Leprosy Day’ was celebrated last Sunday, January 27, 2019 in Lagos, and it had as theme, Zero Discrimination to Stigmatisation. But it beggars the question how consistent the call is for, as soon as the day runs out, the clamour for resolution thins out until another comes round.

Based on this unbecoming attitude towards sustainable resolutions to ailments and their victims, Washington Uba, a documentary artist and photographer, held a show on the same day in Lagos. He had works on display spanning over eight years on the plight of people living with leprosy. His desire is to sensitise mindset and perception of the public about the disease.

The event, which was a round table discourse, was put together with support from Global System Resources, 360 Studios and Charity Care Network, and aimed at creating awareness about the disease and the need to shun discrimination and stigmatisation and to emphasise the fact that coming in contact with leprosy sufferers does not lead to leprosy.

Uba said: “We want people to realise that these people are also humans created in the image of God like every other person and should not be abandoned. If we cannot care for people in disadvantaged situations, then we do not love God, because these people are images of God in different shades, the exact same way we are images of God.

“I started these documentary work, because I wanted the world, especially Nigeria, which is our immediate environment, to know that leprosy sufferers should not be abandoned. So, the aim is to tell their stories through images. All my life, I have always worked for charity and it led me to photography. I go to the less privileged and vulnerable people, take their pictures and use them as a medium of expression.

“So, there is absolutely no difference between a leprosy sufferer and a normal person, except that they feel pain due to the ailment. They are stigmatised and abandoned to suffer the pain and die without care.”Overtime, Uba added, Nigerian government has overlooked leprosy sufferers, especially due to the stigmatisation associated with the ailment, which has made it a road less travelled.

“Only Orji Uzo Kalu, who, during his tenure as Abia State governor, contributed to helping leprosy sufferers. Surprisingly, these people are counted when it matters to politicians, but they are not included in the budget, hereby leaving them in a state of helplessness. So the ideology is to sensitise Nigerians and tell them that you cannot contract leprosy through touching victims.

“You would have stayed with the people living with the disease for a period of seven years to actually contract the disease. So, there is no reason for stigmatisation and abandonment. Also, government should include leprosy sufferers in the budget to care for them and save the ones that can still be saved through healthcare provision.”

A physiotherapist, Dr. Odunifa Kolawole, said, leprosy is a disease caused by the micro-bacteria leprae and has an epidemiology of affecting two male to one female but over time, the duration of female has matched up with male, making it a case study.“The bacterium causes a peripheral damage to each nerve affected, which results to deformity. Though leprosy is a deadly disease and highly contagious but it cannot be contracted through mere touching of sufferers and at such stigmatisation and discrimination should stop because it affects the victims psychologically.

“These people are isolated and condemned to death but the truth is, leprosy can be healed and some have been healed, but because of stigmatisation they cannot integrate themselves back into society, which is the major problem.”Kolawole, therefore, implored Nigerians to put a stop to stigmatisation because leprosy sufferers are human beings, too.“Let us vaccinate our mindset and treat leprosy sufferers right,” he said.

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