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Special report: International Day Against Leprosy Jan. 30History of Leprosy in Yemen.

In this country people with leprosy would often retreat into caves near the villages where they used to live. In 1963 a building to shelter people with leprosy, who had been rejected by their families and friends, was constructed in a village about two kilometers outside the city of Taiz. The city has since expanded and this shelter is now in Taiz. Physicians from Yemen, Russia and Egypt, as well as from the non-governmental organization R?dda-Barnen, visited regularly to diagnose cases of leprosy and to recommend the treatment of the time, Dapsone monotherapy, and later Clofazimine and Rifampicin. In 1973, Dr Sister Garth Rode from the Missionaries of Charity and five nuns began institutional care of people with disabilities due to leprosy. Mother Teresa named this institution for people affected by leprosy the City of Light. Today the City of Light also houses the National Hospital for Dermatology, Venereology and Leprosy. The Director of Al-Gumhory Hospital, Dr Yasin Al-Qubati, began mobilizing national and international resources for leprosy programmes in the early nineteen-eighties. In 1982 the World Health Organization (WHO) offered assistance with logistics, enabling Dr Al-Qubati to start tracing contacts in villages throughout Yemen, using personal information about former leprosy patients and the Missionaries of Charity register of leprosy cases. The WHO also helped arrange for an expatriate to train laboratory technicians in performing slit skin smears to confirm the diagnosis of leprosy. From 1983 to 1993, Dr H. Bruce Ostler of the Proctor Foundation University of California paid several visits to correct eye problems in leprosy patients. In 1989 the Deutsche Lepra- und Tuberkulosehilfe (DAHW) signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health and Population to further strengthen field work. Among other things, DAHW supported training of medical officers both locally and abroad, provided cars and encouraged dermatologists to join the National Leprosy Elimination Programme (NLEP) as supervisors and trainers of primary health care workers. The training of primary health care workers can be seen as the start of integrating leprosy activities into the existing health system.

What is leprosy Leprosy is a medical condition, also known as Hansen's Disease, after Armauer Hansen, a Norwegian doctor who was the first to view the leprosy microbe under a microscope in 1873. It is neither hereditary nor flesh eating. Last year over 296,000 new cases were detected - that's over 800 people every day... Leprosy is caused by Mycobacterium leprae (related to the TB mycobacterium). It is probably spread by airborne infection -- coughing and sneezing. The first outward sign of leprosy is a patch on the skin, usually associated with loss of feeling. While leprosy doesn't cause fingers or toes to drop off, it is capable of causing disability and even blindness if left untreated. Leprosy is difficult to catch and cannot be caught by a handshake. Over 95% of people are immune and after only a couple of days on treatment, sufferers are no longer infectious. Leprosy is curable with Multidrug Therapy (MDT), a powerful combination of two to three drugs: clofazimine, rifampicin and dapsone. Mild, non-infectious cases of leprosy need treatment with two drugs for 6 months. More severe infectious cases need all three drugs for up to a 24 month period. There is however no effective preventative vaccine - which is why early detection and treatment with MDT are so vital. Every year between 200,000 and 400,000 new cases of leprosy are found around the world. the total number of people affected by leprosy, including those who have completed their medical treatment but have a disability or are stigmatised remains very high, at around 3 million. Fear of the disease which often causes rejection and exclusion from one's home and community can often do more damage than the disease itself. Source: The Leprosy Mission International www.leprosymission.org

The northern and southern parts of Yemen were united into the Republic of Yemen in May 1990. The following year, an assessment was made of the leprosy situation in the southern part of the country. Mobile teams were trained by the WHO and DAHW to carry out field control activities, including treatment with a multi-drug therapy. These teams also informed the community about leprosy through health education in schools, mosques, military camps and other community groups. The Yemen Leprosy Elimination Society (YELEP) was launched in January 1992 by Dr Al-Qubati to help with anti-leprosy activities. In 1994, DAHW and YELEP worked together and extended the area of work of the NLEP to the rest of the Republic of Yemen. There were 64 leprosy clinics throughout the country, which resulted in an increased case detection of leprosy and greater coverage of multi-drug therapy for leprosy patients. Two years later it was possible to begin closing down some of these clinics or run them on a monthly or quarterly basis only, because cases of leprosy were rare. However in 1998, a Leprosy Elimination Campaign in Hodeida governorate led to the detection of many more cases of leprosy. By the end of 2003, over 5,800 people had been treated for leprosy and the rate of registered cases was 2.4 per 10,000 population. By 2007, the WHO reported 434 new cases of leprosy in the Republic of Yemen. Myths about leprosy in the Republic of Yemen

About Dr. Yasin Al-Qubati Dr Yasin Al-Qubati was presented with the 2003 Dr A T Shousha Foundation Prize and Medal at the 50th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean in June 2003. This award honored Dr Al-Qubati's dedication to public health and especially controlling leprosy and his lifelong commitment to the care and well-being of people affected by leprosy in the Republic of Yemen. He became interested in leprosy when he was still a student at the College of Medicine in Cairo and met people affected by leprosy at the Qasr Al-Aini Hospital and at Egyptian leprosaria such as Abu-Zaabal and Al-Kalaa. Dr Al-Qubati graduated as a dermatologist in 1980 and spent the following years mobilizing national and international support for leprosy control and relief. He was instrumental in developing the National Leprosy Elimination Program in Yemen. He has raised awareness of leprosy among the community. He has also helped organize services for the prevention of disability, as well as rehabilitation services. His public health interests include control of leishmaniasis and onchocerciasis and improving the quality of care in the national health system in the Republic of Yemen. In addition, he played a prominent role in the establishing the School of Medicine at Taiz University in 1999.

There were many myths about leprosy in the Republic of Yemen, but education activities including messages on the radio and television, newspaper articles, printed information and training are extending knowledge about leprosy and helping to background these myths. For example, there was the belief that a person affected by leprosy walking in the rain might transmit their leprosy via the rain drops to crops and then to those who ate the agricultural products. It was also feared that a lit lantern of a person affected by leprosy could draw people to enter their caves and that they might catch leprosy from those affected. In June 2003, Dr Yasin Al-Qubati was presented with the Dr A. T. Shousha Foundation Prize and Medal at the 50th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean. This award honored Dr Al-Qubati's dedication to public health, and especially controlling leprosy, and his lifelong commitment to the care and well-being of people affected by leprosy in the Republic of Yemen. He became interested in leprosy when he was still a student at the College of Medicine in Cairo and met people affected by leprosy at the Qasr Al-Aini Hospital and at Egyptian leprosaria such as Abu-Zaabal and Al-Kalaa. Dr Al-Qubati graduated as a dermatologist in 1980 and spent the following years mobilizing national and international support for leprosy control and relief. He was instrumental in developing the National Leprosy Elimination Programme in Yemen. He has raised awareness of leprosy among the community. He has also helped organize services for the prevention of disability, as well as rehabilitation services. His public health interests include control of leishmaniasis and onchocerciasis and improving the quality of care in the national health system in the Republic of Yemen. In addition, he played a prominent role in establishing the School of Medicine at Taiz University in 1999.

The city of light It was established in 1964 when the minister of health at the time Ali Mohammed Saeed gathered leprosy patients in Taiz to one place around two kilometers outside the city and provided them with treatment through what is known today as the National Leprosy Elimination Program.

The city of light for treating leprosy in Taiz. NLEP

In 1974 Mother Teresa supported the medical facility and named it "city of light" in order to reflect hope. Missionaries of Charity M Theresa International organization on advice from Catholic relief was working in Hodiedah after revolution 1964. They started their activities through a home for old people. When some nuns were visiting Al-Sokhna hot spring in the early seventies they discovered leprosy patients among the visitors of the hot springs for treatment from skin diseases. In 1974 they became involved in supporting the leprosarium in Taiz until 1992 when the German Leprosy organization took over supporting NLEP.

Women's ward at the city of light hospital. NLEP

Today the city of light is home to more than 800 resident patients. Some of them have already lost mobility because of the disease. Every year there are between 400 and 500 new cases discovered which averages to around 1.79 for every 100,000 Yemenis. But because of medical advancements most of those find treatment before the disease distorts their appearance. Today there are 64 leprosy clinics spread across Yemen from Sa'ada to Al-Mahara. Hospitals are also supposed to treat patients but they have been known for rejecting lepers which is against the law. The treatment takes between six months to one year and many of the patients in the city of light are living a healthy life and have even started their own families. The city of light has become a refuge for patients with leprosy. Patients come from all around the country but mainly Hadramout then Hodeida where the disease is most prevalent.

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Publication:Yemen Times (Sana'a, Yemen)
Geographic Code:7YEME
Date:Jan 27, 2011
Words:1733
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