Gaibandha – Jaypurhat Leprosy Care Project, Bangladesh (GJLCP)
The GJLCP provides new and already-existing leprosy patients with holistic treatment and care. The project, in cooperation with the Government of Bangladesh, provides facilities for diagnosis and treatment of leprosy. The GJLCP also provides Prevention of Disability training and advocacy awareness and self-help groups to empower people with leprosy.
The Gaibandha and Jaypurhat regions have a combined population of nearly 3.5 million people. These two districts are among the poorest in Bangladesh. They both are densely populated and have low literacy rates. Disasters, including floods, famines and erosion, are common here, as is stigma due to leprosy.
GJLCP is providing services for improving the livelihood of people with leprosy through skill training, loan support, grants to school children, disability care, reconstructive surgery and general health awareness. There is also a partnership with a local eye clinic to reduce the incidence of blindness.
Objectives of the GJLCP:
- Continuation of leprosy care services in high endemic areas
- Further strengthening the integration process into general health services for sustainable leprosy diagnosis, Multi-Drug Therapy treatment, and simple ulcer and reaction care
- Improvement of the physical and socio-economic conditions of people affected by leprosy and other disabilities
- To increase awareness about leprosy and advocate for the social and human rights of people with leprosy
- To increase the integration of people with leprosy in to the local community
- To remove barriers, misconceptions and traditional beliefs about leprosy through public awareness campaigns
- An emphasis on the need for early case detection to prevent severe disabilities due to leprosy
- Continuation of Community Based Rehabilitation programs in entrepreneurship, vocational training, educational support, credit support and building networks with other non-governmental organizations
- Jaypurhat and Gaibandha are 89 km apart (a 2 hour drive)
- The GJLCP is a 5 hour drive from Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh
- Most roads in the area are impassable during the rainy season
- The climate is sub-tropical with regular flooding in parts of Gaibandha
- GJLCP aims to detect approximately 400 new cases of leprosy, train 200 government health staff, and provide 1750 pairs of footwear this year.
Karima is in her early twenties and she was diagnosed with leprosy during her hospital stay for the birth of her son. Imagine the painful juxtaposition she faced: celebrating the birth of her first child and then in the next moment she felt she could lose everything.
Her husband had no compassion for her. The treatment turned her skin a dark brown colour and in his eyes his beautiful young wife became ugly and undesirable. He sent her to live with her parents who did everything they could to care for their daughter. This was extremely difficult because the whole community turned their backs on the family “cursed” by leprosy. They didn’t understand leprosy or its treatments. After struggling alone, Karima and her parents eventually ran out of money.
Though they were extremely frightened of what their future held, the GJLCP helped them find hope again. They brought a drama and music ensemble to Karima’s village. The group was comprised of former leprosy patients who sang songs and told stories to illustrate the signs of leprosy and the good news that it can be cured. The team helped people understand that Karima had leprosy, but she was not cursed, she was sick and there were medicines available to make her better.
A woman from a nearby village also attended the performance and came to Karima’s home afterwards to offer her sewing lessons. This woman showed incredible compassion. Karima’s community was still hesitant to accept her, but the woman helped anyway.
In time, Karima received a small loan and purchased a sewing machine. Today she does all the tailoring for the people in the village!