COVID Support for Hansen’s Disease Communities: Nigeria (IDEA Nigeria)

Nigeria boasts Africa’s largest population and biggest GDP, yet the country’s huge wealth gap and inadequate social safety net consigns the poor to a hard existence.

Nigeria achieved elimination of leprosy as a public health problem in 2000, but it remains one of the WHO’s global priority countries for leprosy, reporting 2,424 new cases in 2019, including 365 cases with visible deformity at time of diagnosis. Discrimination toward those affected by the disease remains deep rooted, and some people are abandoned by their families and end up living in slums and begging for a living. On top of this, the COVID pandemic, which has affected Nigeria as a whole, has made life particularly tough for persons affected by leprosy.

Between November 2020 and February 2021, Sasakawa Health Foundation funded relief activities carried out by IDEA (International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement) Nigeria with the support of LTR (Leprosy and TB Relief Initiative) Nigeria. Since its establishment in 2003, IDEA Nigeria has carried out advocacy and awareness-raising to eliminate discrimination and promote disability prevention. It currently has 5,871 members. LTR Nigeria, formerly the country office of Netherlands Leprosy Relief,  is a local NGO supporting leprosy and TB control activities. It has made funding available for leprosy hospitals, provided vehicles and worked to strengthen the capacity of Ministry of Health personnel, collaborating with IDEA where appropriate.

Support activities were carried out in the following states: Bauchi, in the north of the country; Kano (northwest); and Plateau (east-central). During the four-month project, IDEA, with the support of LTR, provide food (rice, beans, grain and salt), hygiene products (masks, disinfectant), and self-care equipment (bowls, soap) to 150 persons affected by leprosy in the target areas. In addition, IDEA selected 150 people who lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic and provided them with vocational training in poultry farming, soap manufacture and vaseline production to help them achieve economic independence.

Mr.Deji Bodunde of LTR oversees the supply of self-care equipment in Kano State.
IDEA members learn how to make soap.

Thanks to the delivery of food and hygiene products, beneficiaries who had been going through a difficult time were able to live a dignified existence. Meanwhile, those who had received vocational training were able to start earning a modest income, putting their newly acquired skills to work to raise poultry, make soap and produce vaseline.

While this project only lasted for four months, it showed what can be done when people cooperate to overcome difficulties. Hopefully this lesson in resilience will prove useful in facing future challenges.