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The Leprosy Mission offers its services to victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria

The Leprosy Mission is offering mobility aids to victims of Boko Haram in Nigeria following a spate of high-profile attacks.

The international development charity runs an orthopaedic workshop in Minna, Niger state, which provides mobility aids, including prosthetic limbs, to people with leprosy-caused disabilities as well as others with disabilities, including accident victims.

Based in northern Nigeria and adjoining Zamfara state where the Islamist insurgent group Boko Haram has claimed many lives, staff members at the orthopaedic workshop have reached out to hospitals across the country, offering its services to victims of terrorism.

The Leprosy Mission Nigeria has been greatly impacted by the recent Boko Haram insurgency.  Staff members in insurgency-affected states are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis.  A member of the team is still grieving the loss of his mother, brother and two other relatives following attacks in Kaduna state on 23 June.

Despite overtaking South Africa this year to become Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria has Africa’s largest number of leprosy diagnoses, rising from 3,623 in 2011 to 3,805 new cases in 2012; 332 were children and 12 percent of all the new cases already had visible disabilities.  Leprosy is a disease of poverty and thrives where there is poor nutrition and low standards of living.  If left untreated, leprosy causes severe disabilities and The Leprosy Mission strives for early detection and treatment as well as restoring dignity and quality of life to those with irreversible disabilities caused by leprosy.

Steve Harknett, Programmes and Advocacy Officer for Africa at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales, said:  “Life has been extremely tough for our colleagues in Nigeria this year, working on the projects we support, with the frequent terrorist activity from Boko Haram.

“The threat of terrorism in some areas is sometimes so severe that it prevents staff from going into certain communities to diagnose and treat leprosy which proves to be a frustration for them.

“This has been the case in Zamfara state, where The Leprosy Mission supports the health services in the areas of leprosy and elephantiasis care. Zamfara has witnessed a number of appalling attacks in recent weeks, with gunmen entering villages and indiscriminately killing dozens, including women and children.

“Islam and Christianity are the most widely-practised faiths in Nigeria and, as a Christian charity, The Leprosy Mission Nigeria is promoting a message of peace and religious tolerance through its health and community development projects.  These projects are open to people from all faiths.  The charity is encouraging its staff to be increasingly security conscious.”