Lepers Still Suffer Among Us – Noeleen Seeks Relief for Outcasts
Joseph is the elder in a community of approximately 75 families and 500 people who live together as a leper colony in the village of Malo, South Sudan – a people who have endured the onslaught of the terrible illness of leprosy for years.
Joseph contracted the disease when he was young. Back then, he was receiving medicine to treat it. He was responding well and expected to recover fully. Then war broke out. Soon there was no medicine available. Joseph became very ill, and as a result, he lost most of his fingers and toes.
Leprosy is an infectious but curable disease. One would think with the ability to stop it, leprosy would be eradicated from the earth by now. Yet some 200,000 people around the world are still affected today, most suffering in poor and remote parts of Africa and Asia. Leprosy is caused by bacteria that attack the skin and peripheral nerves, causing sores, nerve damage, muscle damage, and loss of feeling in the arms and legs. It can also attack the eyes and nose and wreaks particular havoc on extremities. In the last two decades, some 16 million people have been cured of this treatable disease with antibiotics and multidrug therapy.
But Joseph was not so fortunate. He and others who were affected were driven from their homes, no one wanting lepers near them as neighbors. They were forced from place to place over the years, eventually becoming destitute, having no shelter and little-to-no clothes. They were ostracized by everyone and cast out from all aspects of normal society.
Missionary Nurse Noeleen Loughran recently discovered their plight when she arrived in the town of Rumbek. Many of you know our partner, Irish nurse Noeleen, who worked for years in the Bidi Bidi refugee camp in northern Uganda, providing medical care when South Sudanese fled there to escape the fighting. Now that the camp is closing and urging refugees to return to their home country, she has also left Bidi Bidi and gone to South Sudan, along with thousands of returning refugees. Upon settling in Rumbek, Noeleen discovered the struggling leper community in the neighboring village of Malo and was moved by their suffering to help them.
Due to years of neglect and malnutrition, she found them in dire need of treatment beyond just the medicine to cure leprosy. Many are blind. Nerves in their hands and feet are gone, so they have no feeling if they become injured or burned. Many cannot walk. Hand dressings and wound care are needed daily for many. They also suffer some of the common ailments of the region, such as typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis, and parasitic infections.
It is astounding to think no one has helped these people before with their curable disease, but they’ve simply been pushed away. With your help, we can send relief supplies such as beans, maize, oil, sugar, salt, nutrition biscuits, tea, and soap to the community, along with needed medicines. They are starting to construct homes – huts with solid walls and roofs. A total of 16 have been built, but many more are needed to meet the needs of the 75 families. Construction of a borehole is needed for a water well and latrines that are essential for sanitation to prevent further spread of disease. Clean clothing is also needed, especially for the children, who could now have a chance to go to school for the first time in their lives.
With the support of our donors, we can also renovate an old building to be used as a health clinic and provide Nurse Noeleen with medicines and basic medical equipment to treat the community. The existing “structure” has walls but lacks a roof and a floor.
With your assistance, we can bring hope to these forgotten people. Leprosy is curable. There is no need to suffer from this insidious disease. Like the millions of others who’ve been cured by treatment that’s available today, Joseph and some 500 others can be rescued from its debilitating grasp. It’s hard to think about humans living in such despondent conditions without help. They have been rejected, shunned, and left to languish. Can you take a moment of compassion for the less fortunate and offer a gift that will help them out of their affliction? Can you be the hand that reaches out and lifts them up?
If you’ve ever needed help in large ways or small, you know what a difference it made when someone reached out to you. Can you imagine the impact it makes to offer healing medicine and sanitary living conditions to someone with leprosy? If you can imagine that for a moment and not turn away, please give a gift of compassion today. Then imagine the joy you’ve brought someone who has just been given a whole new life.
Neil A. Corkery, President
Sudan Relief Fund
P.S. – With your help, we can halt the progression of leprosy among the people of Malo. Much damage has been done. But with your gifts, we can send medicine and supplies to restore health and dignity to these stricken people and relieve their suffering. You can give a hopeful future to the children of this community, without the stigma and threat of leprosy. Please offer a gift to help and give these families new hope and a new life.