We are chased away like dogs, Abuja’s lep­ers cry out

Daily Trust - - ASO CHRONICLE - By Taiwo Adeniyi, Re­joice Iliya, Hope Ariko, Wu­raola Odolaiye

Haruna Sani is a teenager from a fam­ily of seven and born to par­ents with lep­rosy. He at­tends Gov­ern­ment Se­condary School, Yan­goji by day and washes cars at a petrol sta­tion af­ter clos­ing from school in the evening. And at night, he sleeps in the kitchen of the one bed­room ac­com­mo­da­tion al­lot­ted to his par­ents.

He gets about N300 daily as tip from the car wash out of which he spends N100 trans­port­ing him­self to school ev­ery day.

While he said he is for­tu­nate to have a kitchen to sleep in, he lamented that sev­eral other chil­dren and their lep­rous par­ents re­side at the Lep­ers Vil­lage, Yan­goji in squalid con­di­tions.

Most of the par­ents have their limbs de­formed by the ill­ness and they strug­gle to till the ground while women are at the mercy of their daugh­ters to prop­erly cater for the fam­ily.

“We are suf­fer­ing too much in this vil­lage and our peo­ple only take garri and rama leaves. Our houses are leak­ing, and they are not enough be­cause some fam­i­lies, due to their large size, all sleep in the same room,” the chief of the lep­ers’ com­mu­nity, Ali Isa, said while try­ing to ex­plain what the lep­ers con­tend with daily.

The com­mu­nity is lo­cated in a se­cluded area, few kilo­me­tres from Yan­goji along the Abuja-Lokoja ex­press­way. With a di­lap­i­dated pri­mary school and pri­mary health­care cen­tre in the same con­di­tion and un­able to dis­pense drugs, the colony of lep­ers is a hard place to live in.

They are left to fend for them­selves in an un­friendly sit­u­a­tion as they are dreaded by the peo­ple and de­serted by the gov­ern­ment.

Isa said when the gov­ern­ment moved them to their present lo­ca­tion from Du­rumi, he had thought their lives had turned a cor­ner.

“Af­ter 15 years, our ex­pec­ta­tions for a new and bet­ter life are yet to be ac­tu­alised,” he said.

At 67, he said he has given up on life, adding that tend­ing his farm was the only ac­tiv­ity that gave him so­lace.

The ac­count of the chief brought to the fore why the lep­ers trooped out in their num­bers when Aso Chron­i­cle team ar­rived the com­mu­nity.

“We heard you brought food for us,” he said, jus­ti­fy­ing the cu­rios­ity of our re­porters. Con­tin­ued on next page

He said they were full of hope when­ever ve­hi­cles come into the com­mu­nity.

“Ve­hi­cles bring good things and we don’t see it al­ways in this place,” he said.

He said when they were re­lo­cated to Yan­goji dur­ing the Nasir el-Ru­fai ad­min­is­tra­tion, they were paid monthly stipend of be­tween N4,000 and N6,000.

He, how­ever, said the stipend stopped com­ing the mo­ment El-Ru­fai’s term as FCT min­is­ter ended.

“When­ever we go to the town to beg peo­ple are al­ways chas­ing us away like dogs. Yet we are Nige­ri­ans and there has been lit­tle sup­port from few pub­lic spir­ited Nige­ri­ans,” he said.

For 20 years, Lawal Mo­hammed has been liv­ing with lep­rosy. Though he is cured but the dam­age has al­ready been done with all his toes and some of his fin­gers now stumps, yet he still farms.

“If I don’t go to the farm, how will I pro­vide for my fam­ily,” he said, adding that it has been dif­fi­cult.

Lawal who is also the com­mu­nity’s sec­re­tary said the con­di­tion of the lep­ers hardly at­tracted gov­ern­ment at­ten­tion and in­ter­ven­tion. He said most of the mech­a­nised bore­holes in the com­mu­nity have packed up forc­ing them to take turns while us­ing the three func­tion­ing ones.

Saidu Wak­ili, an­other leper is yet to de­vise how to feed and pay school fees for his eight chil­dren. He said his big­gest headache was the re­luc­tance of the res­i­dents and stiff gov­ern­ment stance on street beg­ging.

“In fact, the mo­ment peo­ple see your fin­gers they start run­ning away from you. If you beg few would give you money,” he said.

He said it was sad to be so stig­ma­tized and looked down upon. “We don’t have any­body to help us. Be­cause of this sick­ness we are fac­ing many chal­lenges, es­pe­cially from other Nige­ri­ans and we all be­long to this coun­try,” he said.

Isa, while cor­rob­o­rat­ing Wak­ili, said the lep­ers don’t have good life in the com­mu­nity be­cause most of the build­ings have not been ren­o­vated and they don’t have the means to do that.

“We are yet to be well fed, so how do we re­pair our leak­ing roofs and make a good shel­ter for our­selves,” he queried.

He con­tin­ued, “We don’t have any good life here, only God can help us. We have not re­ceived any­thing from the gov­ern­ment and when we go to Area 3 they send us away, where do they want us to go?”

“We don’t have food and our hus­bands are not good enough to en­gage in ac­tive farm­ing,” the women leader in the com­mu­nity, Hadiza Sarki, said.

She said women are usu­ally left to at­tend to their ail­ing hus­bands af­ter they re­turn from the farm,

“If my hus­band goes to the farm, he usu­ally comes back sick and is bedrid­den for a month,” she added.

Umala Keri, a preg­nant woman in the com­mu­nity said most women de­liver at home due to the poor state of the com­mu­nity’s pri­mary health­care cen­tre.

“I have two chil­dren and they were de­liv­ered at home be­cause if we go to the clinic, they will re­fer us to Kwali Hos­pi­tal and we don’t have money to go there,” she said.

Hadiza said the nurses at the com­mu­nity’s PHC al­ways re­ferred them to Kwali with­out con­sid­er­ing how they would get there.

“Look at that child, he is sick, we went to the PHC, no drugs and we don t have money to go to Kwali,” Hadiza said.

A health worker at the PHC who pleaded anonymity said there were three nurses work­ing at the cen­tre and a doc­tor who vis­ited from time to time.

She said drugs have not been sup­plied to the cen­tre for more than one year.

She said some of the women were trained tra­di­tional birth at­ten­dants and at­tended to ex­pec­tant moth­ers since none of the health work­ers stayed in the com­mu­nity.

When­ever we go to the town to beg peo­ple are al­ways chas­ing us away like dogs. Yet we are Nige­ri­ans and there has been lit­tle sup­port from few pub­lic spir­ited Nige­ri­ans

Photo Re­joice Iliya

One of the houses al­lot­ted to the lep­ers in Yan­goji

Chief of the lep­ers, Ali Isa

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