Awareness Raising Indispensable in the Fight Against Leprosy


Awareness Raising Indispensable in the Fight Against Leprosy

Naïma Azzouri from Morocco, Wu Yao Qiang from China and Kofi Nyarko from Ghana are all affected by leprosy. With the support of networks in their country, they fight the stigma against people affected with leprosy (PAL) and their families. Testimonies.


Naïma Azzouri/Morocco

“In my country, people treat us as pariahs. They avoid us. We can’t get any job. Even doctors refuse to treat us.” Naïma Azzouri is a native of the Atlas mountains. When she was 9 years old, her hands curled up. After being diagnosed, she received triple therapy. Her parents passed away when she was 14 and a French doctor working at a hospital in Casablanca took her in. She lived there for 10 years before leaving to work for a French woman.
Naïma is now married with “the brother of a person with leprosy” and has a daughter and a son. She is a member of a small association that assists PAL and their families. “Our actions are very limited because we don’t receive any financial support. Doctors are still scared of working with us. Even I have to hide my disease. There is still a lot of awareness raising that needs to be done so that we no longer face any stigma.”


Wu Yao Qiang/China

“In China, the government runs awareness raising campaigns only in the developed parts of the country. In rural areas, leper villages still exist. People live there in extremely harsh conditions. Children are excluded from schools and villagers organize demonstrations against PAL and their families. Meanwhile, the government has remained passive.”

Wu Yao Qiang was diagnosed in 1975 when he was 19. The multidrug therapy (MDT) did not yet exist back then and Wu Yao Qiang was sent to the leper colony of Yangchun. He didn’t see his family for the following 20 years. Though he was beset with despair, he gradually pulled himself together with the encouragement of his fellow sufferers.

Today, Wu Yao Qiang is a member of the HANDA Committee, an association fighting for the rehabilitation and the rights of PAL. He still lives in the leper colony with his wife. Their only daughter studies “incognito” at the university but she comes and visit them from time to time.


Kofi Nyarko/Ghana

“In Ghana, the fight for the rights of PAL starts at the community level. We act through networks.”

Kofi Nyarko is the president of IDEA-Ghana – IDEA brings together over 20,000 members from 30 countries around the world that are active in awareness raising. Kofi Nyarko has helped hundreds of Ghanaians affected by leprosy reintegrate their families and villages.

“When I was 13, I was sent to a leper colony because my feet and hands had become inert. I found myself next to a man whose feet had both been amputated. He no longer had any fingers. I was in a state of shock. I could see myself ending up like him. I received triple therapy, then the missionaries came to pick me up and brought me to a center for children with leprosy. That’s where I continued my education.  When I was 15, the missionaries sent me to England, where I received a teacher’s training. When I got back, I founded a school for the disabled. I got married and I have 4 children now. My eldest is starting university.”

In Cambodia and Brazil, CIOMAL is also fighting the stigma against people affected by leprosy and their families. Thank you for your invaluable support. 



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