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Reinforcing a People’s Organization: Brazil’s MORHAN

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Since 2019, Sasakawa Health Foundation has been supporting MORHAN to strengthen its organizational foundations. MORHAN is a social movement of persons affected by Hansen’s disease in Brazil, which reports the second highest number of annual new cases after India.

MORHAN, which stands for the Movement for the Reintegration of Persons Affected by Hansen’s Disease, consists of around 2,500 volunteers, including persons affected by the disease and their families, citizens and students, who conduct awareness-raising activities and advocate to end discrimination.

Our support to help consolidate MORHAN’s foundations is a three-year project. It aims to make MORHAN one of the main actors in the fight against Hansen’s disease in Brazil in the future, working alongside the government and civil society to eliminate the disease and the discrimination.

Continuing from the previous fiscal year, we are supporting three programs: (1) strengthening branches in endemic states, (2) training volunteers, and (3) strengthening communications.

(1) Strengthening branches

In 16 cities in 12 states, MORHAN opened new branches or held workshops to strengthen existing branches in FY2020. We expect this to boost awareness-raising across Brazil and help volunteers to carry out their activities more effectively. At present, volunteers from seven branches sit on local and state health councils, giving them the opportunity to raise issues about Hansen’s disease at policy-making sessions.

A branch-strengthening workshop in Cuiaba, Matto Grosso state.

(2) Training volunteers

MORHAN produced training materials on 13 topics, such as “The COVID-19 Pandemic and Hansen’s Disease” and “Human Rights”. Each session was first broadcast live to allow for interaction between the lecturers and the audience, including a Q&A session; thereafter, the training was available on demand. In total, the sessions had more than 8,000 views. The course on “Hansen’s Disease and the Role of Community Health amid the COVID-19 Pandemic” was viewed 1,117 times, showing that this was a topic of particular interest to people.

Online training: EAD do MORHAN
Live broadcast ①
Live broadcast ②

(3) Strengthening communications

In addition to disseminating information vis social media and other channels, MORHAN offered free consultations via WhatsApp and received over 1,000 queries. MORHAN also published a collection of articles by 13 academics and experts on Hansen’s disease and the coronavirus. Hansen’s disease and COVID-19 both cause discrimination, and many people agreed that the lessons learned from Hansen’s disease should be used to realize a society in which COVID-19 does not cause division and isolation.  

In fiscal 2020, activities against leprosy were disrupted around the world due to the spread of the coronavirus, and some were temporarily suspended, including MORHAN’s activities. In Brazil, the number of coronavirus cases began to increase rapidly around May, and several MORHAN volunteers were infected. In the midst of these challenges, MORHAN moved quickly to create a protocol that it shared with all volunteers to ensure that activities were carried out safely. It has also held weekly online talks for persons affected by Hansen’s disease, many of whom live in isolated circumstances and who have seen their mental health deteriorate due to the impact of the pandemic, in order to send them messages of encouragement.

Given MORHAN’s exceptional ability to take action and mobilize volunteers, it is very important for Brazil’s efforts against Hansen’s disease that it is able to operate sustainably as an organization of and for persons affected by Hansen’s disease.  

This project is scheduled to continue until March 2022 as we keep supporting MORHAN—one of the main actors in the Hansen’s disease community in Brazil—in strengthening its foundations so that it becomes better positioned to contribute to solving a variety of medical and social problems relating to the disease.