Good news for leprosy communities in Nigeria
Imad came to live at Ammanawa leprosy community in Nigeria not long after developing symptoms of the disease in 1979.
The community has grown up around the local hospital and his neighbours told him it would be the best place for him to go to get help.
Fortunately, completing his course of medication combined with diligent self-care of his hands and feet has meant that Imad, now 67, is free of disability. But even this did not stop people stigmatising him - prejudice against people affected by leprosy in his village was strong, so Imad stayed on at Ammanawa and has been there ever since - marrying, raising a family and farming on land near the hospital.
In this notoriously dry area of northern Nigeria, farming isn't easy and families like Imad's have often struggled to grow crops successfully. For an already-marginalised community like Ammanawa, that means greater poverty and uncertainty about having enough food.
This year, however, residents have seen some enormous changes take place, as part of a new project focusing on improving the lives of people living in leprosy communities.
"When I arrived at Ammanawa, I was amazed to see how people's lives are being transformed," said Programmes and Advocacy Officer Gareth Shrubsole, who visited Nigeria recently.
"We don’t often hear good news coming out of northern Nigeria and it is challenging place to work in, but in this project I really saw the scripture of Luke 4:18-19 being brought to life.
"The good news is that people are learning to farm their land to grow food and generate an income; those imprisoned by disabilities are getting freedom through provision of wheelchairs, crutches and prosthetic limbs; the blind are recovering their sight through cataract operations.
"What's more, those who have been oppressed by leprosy stigma are being released as greater awareness is spread about the real causes of leprosy and people affected by it are empowered to speak out against stigma."
In addition to learning more about farming, Imad has found his life revolutionised by a new tube well. The result is that, helped by his sons, he's now growing numerous different crops - an impressive feat on land that is known for being so dry and difficult to farm.
"People like Imad are now benefiting from better hygiene and clean water thanks to new boreholes and latrines too. The Leprosy Mission team working in the area are doing wonderful work and it was a real privilege to be able to see it firsthand,"said Gareth.
"As I talked to Imad, it was wonderful to see the range of crops - fat onions, bright red chillies, sturdy cassava, and many more - that he has been able to nurture in this often barren land. It's all thanks to the water supply from his new tube-well and his training in farming techniques."
It's all thanks to your support and prayers that people like Imad are acquiring the new skills and resources they need to live life to the full - and it's a huge encouragement to see the way people living in communities like Ammanawa have seen their lives turned around in the past year.