By Meclina Chirwa
Some leprosy patients at Bwaila hospital in Lilongwe have complained about lack of leprosy services in other health centers, describing it as a huge setback to the fight against the disease.
When Timveni Radio visited the facility on Thursday, it was discovered that some patients travel from as far as Ntcheu and Dedza just to seek leprosy treatment.
One of the patients, Nasiyaya Chaima from Chinsapo Township in Lilongwe said government should train more dermatologists to address the current situation.
Leprosy is an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damages in the arms, legs and skin areas around the body. The disease has been around since ancient times. Outbreaks have affected people on every continent.
However, despite Malawi attaining the World Health Organization (Who) leprosy elimination status in 1944, the disease has resurfaced and cases are on the rise.
Despite the resurgence, lack of adequate human resource is said to be the major setback to the fight against leprosy in the country.
Some patients that spoke with Timveni at Bwaila Hospital in Lilongwe complained that most health centers have no leprosy services forcing them to travel to Bwaila hospital to seek services.
Nasiyaya Chaima, a leprosy patient from Chinsapo in Lilongwe, said Bwaila is the only hospital that provides leprosy services in Lilongwe.
He urged authorities to address the matter and provide quick solutions.
Mercy Kuyenda, a 43-year old leprosy patient from Mwenje Village, Traditional Authority Kaphuka in Dedza, said she occasionally travels from Dedza to receive treatment at Bwaila Hospital on the basis that there are no such services at Dedza District Hospital.
However, despite the long distance they cover, the patients say they find solace in the good service and treatment they receive at Bwaila Hospital.
In her remarks, dermatology officer at Bwaila hospital Dingase Ngongonda said the hospital is striving towards providing the best leprosy services to patients.
So far Bwaila has about 30 leprosy patients.
Currently, Malawi has over 500 leprosy patients.
Some of the signs and symptoms of the disease are discolored patches of skin, dry skin, loss of eye brows and eye lashes, painless ulcers on the soles of feet and growths on the skin.
It usually takes about 3 to 5 years for symptoms to appear after coming into contact with the bacteria that causes leprosy. Some people do not develop symptoms until 20 years later.
Leprosy’s long incubation period makes it difficult for doctors to determine when and where a person with leprosy got infected.