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Patients with leprosy get a second chance

Church-run center in Bangladesh looks to eradicate debilitating disease

People learning a trade at the center in Dinajpur People learning a trade at the center in Dinajpur
  • ucanews.com reporter, Dinajpur
  • Bangladesh
  • February 3, 2011
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Twelve years after the World Health Organization declared Bangladesh leprosy free, thousands are being diagnosed with the disease every year, but a Church-run center in the north-west of the country is fighting back against the curable debilitating disease.

Dhanjuri Leprosy Center (DLC) in Dinajpur diocese has turned a rising tide in an area once considered a leprosy hotspot and is recording a notable fall in patient numbers as well as helping patients return to a normal life.

Established in 1927 by Italian missioner Father Joseph Obert (later to become bishop of Dinajpur) the center says leprosy patient numbers have fallen to 226 today from a 3,907 high.

Apart from a fully equipped hospital the center has 18 daycare centers offering free 24-hour service to poor patients.

Jogen Besra, the center’s administrative officer said the DLC not only cures patients but also promotes leprosy awareness campaigns and provide vocational training to rehabilitate cured patients.

“We stage folk drama, hold awareness seminars and conduct free leprosy tests for people,” he said.

According to DLC chairman, Holy Cross Bishop Moses Costa of Dinajpur, they are still fighting social prejudices the disease brings.

“Serving leprosy patients is an important Church ministry here. We would like to be their friends and eliminate leprosy forever, he said.”

The center’s “friendship” is seeing many former patients rebuilding their lives.

“When I was diagnosed with leprosy my in-laws called me cursed and my husband disowned me and threw me out,” said Morjina Begum, 28, a Muslim.

Thanks to the DLC she is now fully cured and is now a seamstress thanks to the vocational training the center offers to female patients.

“My husband and in-laws have taken me back. Now I work for an NGO as a sewing teacher and am very happy,” she told ucanews.com.

Azizul Haq, 45, said he owes the center a debt of gratitude.

“When I was diagnosed with leprosy few years back I was admitted there for treatment,” he said.

Knowing how I was struggling financially the “DLC came to my assistance and gave me a cow with calf, which was a great support for my family,” he added.
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