The Order of Malta’s commitment in the battle against leprosy
Numerous initiatives in the 60th world day against this terrible malady
Although considered a disease of the past, leprosy still continues to claim victims in many countries, including Liberia and Egypt where – among its various humanitarian projects – the Order of Malta is supporting a leper centre with a capacity for 500 patients just outside Cairo. To confirm its commitment to the fight against Hansen’s disease, the Sovereign Order of Malta’s embassy in the Republic of Liberia recently organized a meeting in Rome on “Leprosy: scourge or disease? Medical and epidemiological profiles. Social, political and humanitarian aspects”.
Held on the eve of the 60th world day for leprosy sufferers, traditionally celebrated on the last Sunday of January, the meeting offered an overview of the spread of this disease, especially in west African countries where two consecutive civil wars have destroyed medical facilities and decimated health workers.
Since 2005, the Monrovian government’s efforts have focussed on creating a health system accessible to all and on training doctors, nurses and paramedical staff to prevent the spread of leprosy and to provide early diagnosis.
“It is possible to eradicate leprosy,” the Italian Minister of Health, professor Renato Balduzzi, explained to the meeting, “but we need more integration, more cooperation in development and more donations”.
Cooperation was also the key topic of the meeting, in which the Order of Malta’s Ambassador to Liberia, Pierluigi Nardis, participated together with doctors and epidemiologists. Cooperation that involves training human resources in the health sector and which has enabled, as the Liberian Minister of Health, Walter T. Gwenigale, explained to delegates, the number of health workers in the African state to increase from three to eight thousand over the past seven years.
The commitment of the Order of Malta’s French Association
Training personnel is one of the main objectives of the Order of Malta’s French Association which, thanks to cooperation with national governments, manages clinics, early-diagnosis programmes and awareness-raising campaigns in Africa (Cameroon, Gabon, Guinea Conakry, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Mozambique and Senegal) and in Asia. Working in the front line in the fight against leprosy, the Ordre de Malte France is also financing a research programme (MALTALEP) which since 2006 has been studying the genetic mechanisms causing leprosy and developing a vaccine.
In the last weekend of January, the Order of Malta sent out 10,000 volunteers into the streets of France to collect funds for the fight against leprosy. This initiative had already proved successful in 2012, raising 776,000 euro.