Discrimination against Bajura elderly with leprosy; forced to live in cow-shed

BAJURA: A seventy-year-old elderly with leprosy is facing widespread discrimination and ill-treatment in Himali Rural Municipality-7 of Bajura district.

The victim of social stigma against leprosy--which is a contagious infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae, capable of affecting the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose-- has been identified as Ankala Aauji, a permanent resident of Badhu village in the Rural Municipality.

It has been learnt that as soon as the community and family members came know about Aauji's health condition, she was immediately shifted to an alternate location and compelled to live in a nearby cow-shed. Moreover, fearing that the disease could spread, she has not been allowed to use the toilet facility, after which she has been subjected to open urination and defecation.

Aauji shared that she has been relieving herself out in the open since the last three months. Similarly, she has no other option rather than to prepare her own food and collect firewood for the same. "I am experiencing untouchability due to the disease," she added while also informing that even in the chilling winter she did not possess warm clothes.

A local health worker in the village said that Aauji has been taking medications for about 10 months and as such the disease is now non-contagious, while also adding that if she continues to take her medication for another two months she will be completely cured.

It is unfortunate and yet very frequent to witness such daunting stories of condemnation faced by patients of diseases that have already been eradicated from a major number of countries, due to lack of knowledge and awareness, particularly in desolate districts of Nepal.

Seen in picture, Ankala Aauji