Life expectancy is low in Niger and, unlike the UK, the population is booming as a result of the birth rate as opposed to our growing elderly population. Everywhere you look there are children racing around, smiling, playing football and exuding health and happiness. Yet healthcare is poor in Niger and parents of these joyous youngsters know that each rainy season (beginning in June) their children are likely to be struck down with malaria or taken from them anytime as a result of a poverty-related disease. Hospitals tend to be viewed as places to go to die as opposed to recover.
But not at CSL Danja Hospital run by the Society of Missionaries (SIM) with its leprosy services – the only specialist unit in Niger – funded by The Leprosy Mission. Its reputation proceeds it with leprosy-affected people travelling the length and breadth of the country, and from neighbouring Nigeria, for treatment. This morning we went to church in Danja which was a lively and uplifting affair. It was the second time we’d experienced church African-style and our memories of a vibrant and happy worship served us correctly. People affected by leprosy who had received care at the hospital praised God alongside staff and members of the local community. Trainee anaesthetist at the hospital and church secretary Nouhou Maouné translates the words of the songs in the local language of Hausa as ‘I have nothing to offer you but thank you for your love.’
Charlotte Orson/Rosalyn Palmer Sunday 27 April 2012