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Leper patients cry out for government support

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In the quest for sufficient and effective support, patients at the Suakoko Leprosy Rehabilitation Center are calling on the government of President George Manneh Weah to direct more support to the livelihood improvement of lepers at the center. Some of the patients who spoke with our Bong County correspondent on Monday, 8 June said the government has forgotten about them especially during this coronavirus pandemic.

The patients explain that the government has abandoned them, leaving them to depend on Kwatekeh Africa, a Non-governmental organization that has over the past been supporting their livelihood and sometimes, Bong County Electoral District #5 Rep. Edward W. Karfiah. The Leprosy Rehabilitation Center in Suakoko was established during the administration of late President William V.S Tubman. But now the lepers are complaining of lack of government’s support to them.

The Administrator of the center Justin J. Togbah, who has been serving since 1990, says the government needs not to depend on humanitarian organizations for support to the center. Mr. Togbah suggests that the government should rather be eager to bring whatever support patients need for the improvement of their livelihood. Mr. Togbah explains that the patients’ conditions are becoming unbearable due to the lack of support from the Liberian government.

He commends Kwatekeh Africa and the office of Rep. Edward Karfiah for the level of support over the past. “We are grateful to Kwatekeh Africa for the level of support; but we really calling on the government to direct its attention to us because we cannot only depend on Kwatekeh Africa,” he adds.

Our Bong County correspondent who visited the area says despite the awful condition of lepers, many of them are required to engage in farming in order to earn a livelihood while they keep their hands stretched for more.

“I came here since 1973 and since then, I can remember from the beginning of my arrival things were much better, but since the war broke out, my life has completely changed for the worse and I am left with no hope again,” Tennie King, aged 98, tells our correspondent. When questioned if she knows the whereabouts of her relatives, Madam king says she left her husband and two children to seek medication at the center in 1973, but she is yet to hear from them since the war ended.

“Since I came here some friends have been helping me. I can proudly say that this is now my home because I don’t have anywhere to go as you can see. I am very old so I am not thinking of going anywhere. Those who are living in this town with me are all my families,” she concludes. According to her, only one of her hands was infected from the beginning, but her both hands and legs are now being infected with the disease. The Suakoko Rehab Center, according to our correspondent, has little over 600 inhabitants, many of whom are not lepers.

John Tormue, one of the lepers there wants the world to hear their cry for help from the government, including financial aid and medical care. Many of the children and grandchildren at the Rehab Center are not infected with leprosy, but they are still shunned by society due to their link to the patients.

Leprosy is a chronic, curable infectious disease mainly causing skin lesions and nerve damage. It is caused by infection with the bacterium my cobacterium leprae and it mainly affects the skin, eyes, nose and peripheral nerves.

By Joseph Titus Yekeryan in Bong County –Edited by Winston W. Parley

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