NTD and Research Coordinator Shabina Sadiq reflects on her recent visit to Sri Lanka.
I met Akira and her mum over a year ago when I went to visit The Leprosy Mission’s projects in Sri Lanka.
Like any child she was shy to begin with but very playful, mischievous and with a curious nature, wanting to know why so many people wanted to talk to her mum and not her. Her mum has leprosy and her dad left them when he learnt about his wife’s diagnosis. Akira was only a baby when he left and she has never seen him since.
Whilst we are talking to her mum, she mentions to the Project Officer and Doctor standing next to her “my daughter has a skin patch on her upper arm”.
They immediately turn to Akira and ask to look at the patch.
It is small, the size of a finger print, but significant enough for the Project Officer to say “bring her in to the centre and we will take her for tests”.
Immediately, I find myself looking straight at Akira thinking ‘she looks fine’. Akira, oblivious to what is happening around her, looks at me smiling and pointing, as if to say let’s go and play outside.
I turn back to her mum and suddenly realise that I do not need to worry. Akira’s mum is a Leprosy Champion. I am standing beside an amazingly strong woman who, like any mother, will fight for her child’s good health.
Over a year later I find myself back in Sri Lanka. Akira’s mum recognises me immediately and comes to shake my hand saying “it’s like meeting an old friend again”. She then points behind me.
I turn and see Akira in the distance, giggling with laughter and waving.
She has completed her MDT and looks like most happy children. She still has the mischievous look in her eye, one that at times I can relate to.
She looks healthy, loved and full of hope.
I have seen what can happen when people with leprosy receive the treatment they need quickly – this transformation is thanks to our amazing donors. It’s difficult to think about how different Akira’s life may have been if she hadn’t received the support and care she needed immediately.
Thanks to your support, our teams in Sri Lanka are able to change lives.
Thanks to you, teams in Sri Lanka are able to reach out and support people like Akira’s mum, giving them the confidence, skills and strength to overcome the stigma and discrimination associated with leprosy. Leprosy Champions, such as Akira’s mum, are able support others in their communities.
You have made it possible to train local project staff so they can recognise the signs of leprosy immediately – stopping leprosy in its tracks and preventing disability.
Thanks to you, leprosy doesn’t have the opportunity to steal hope and joy from little children like Akira.