Sandhya Mandal has never felt so vindicated. For the past four years, the 36-year-old community health worker from Meherpur – a rural district bordering India – has been traveling 50 km every day along dusty roads on an old motorbike, searching for leprosy patients who needed urgent treatment. But in her community, instead of compliments, neighbours and relatives raised questions about her work and her character. “They ask why I come home so late and what is this ‘work’ that I really do. Some even imply that I might be doing something like prostitution,” Mandal tells IPS.
“The window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic climate change is fast shrinking,” executive director of the Green Climate Fund (GCF), Yannick Glemarec, tells IPS.
Good news: the graph depicting climate investments has been steadily increasing. Climbing from the 2012 figure of $360 billion in climate investments across the world to close to $600 billion currently.
International Leprosy Congress just wrapped up in Manila, Philippines last week. Alongside policy makers, diplomats, medical researchers, doctors, donors and academics, several Hansen's disease-affected people’s organisations also participated in the 3-day congress that was co-sponsored by The Nippon Foundation (TNF) and Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF).
Rachna Kumari of Munger in Eastern India’s Bihar state is not yet 30. But she's already been married at 18, abandoned by her husband after she was diagnosed with leprosy and become an award-winning advocate of the disease. She has traversed a long road. And this week she undertook another step in her journey to fly to Manila, Philippines, as a delegate at the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC).
Forty years ago, Yohei Sasakawa saw his father moved to tears after meeting and witnessing the suffering of people affected by leprosy – also known as Hansen’s disease. Not only did the patients have a physical illness, but they also suffered from social exclusion and discrimination. It made the young Sasakawa vow to work for the elimination of leprosy from the world – just as his father had been doing.
Octogenarian Yohei Sasakawa has travelled to more than 90 countries across the globe; from areas of conflict, to the jungles of Brazil, shaking hands, hugging and washing the feet of Hansen’s disease-affected people. His message is simple: Stop stigmatisation and eliminate the disease.
Professor Ai Kurosaka remembers the day she first interacted with a person affected by Hansen’s disease. It was 2003 and Kurosaka, then a graduate student of sociology at the Saitama University in Japan, had been assigned to interview ex-patients and their family members to document what kind of discrimination they faced. It was a very difficult task because nobody wanted to speak or identify themselves.
Being part of a platform where leprosy-affected people from all over the world can freely interact, exchange and share opinions, ideas, experiences and strategies was always something Tasfaye Tadesse dreamt of.
Professor Takahiro Nanri is the executive director of the Sasakawa Health Foundation, co-organiser of the Global Forum of People’s Organisations on Hansen’s Disease, which will take place from Sept. 7 to 10 in the Philippines.
Kumaribai Jamkatan, 51, has been fighting for women’s land rights since 1987.
Though the constitution of India grants equal rights to men and women, women first started to stake their claim for formal ownership of land only after 2005–the year the government accorded legal rights to daughters to be co-owners of family-owned land.
Jam Bai, an Indigenous farmer from Korchi village in western India, is a woman in hurry. After two months of waiting, the rains have finally come and the rice saplings for her paddy fields must be sown this week while the land is still soft.
During his 22-year career in the health sector, Marcus Samo has seen the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) suffer from an increased burden of disease while at the same time the resources to address them have either remained the same or decreased.
It’s a good day for Dexter, a 25-year-old fisherman from Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. He’s just been told that he is cured of leprosy.
In Jack Niedenthal’s office in Majuro, there is an ominous reminder of the dark history of the Marshall Islands—once the site for dozens of nuclear tests conducted by the United States between 1946 and 1962. But it also provides a strong message about the future of island nation.
It’s a Friday morning and Dr. Ken Jetton, the only doctor who treats leprosy in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, is seeing a patient recently cured of the disease.
Elizabeth Keller is one of the most senior health officials in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).
She is the current acting chief of Public Health and also the head of the leprosy programme in the island nation’s capital of Pohnpei.
Mayleen Ekiek has been working with the Department of Health in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) for 12 years now. She is the head of the National Leprosy Programme in the Pacific island nation, which still remains one of three, along with the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, that is yet to eliminate leprosy.
Meretha Pierson has been a nurse for the past seven years, working in the government-run leprosy clinic in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands. Her patients come in all ages, from different economic backgrounds and different professions. But, aside from their diagnosis, they all have something else in common: everyone wants to keep their illness a secret.
His multiple awards and degrees aside, Dr. Arturo Cunanan is known as a people’s doctor; one who has profound belief in the human rights of every person affected by Hansen’s disease, commonly known as leprosy.