A recent healthcare project was for an existing Leprosy Care Centre in Sonepur, India. Working with Lepra UK, where DATUM financed the refurbishment of several buildings

Project Cost: £10000

A recent healthcare project was for an existing Leprosy Care Centre in Sonepur, India. Working with LEPRA UK we refurbished the following buildings: physiotherapy unit, clinical laboratory, footwear workshop, livelihood training room and kitchen.

The project is now completed and the clinic once again supporting children and other patients suffering from this debilitating disease.

The refurbished clinic was official reopened by Mr NIranjan Pujari, Health Minister for the State of Odisha in October 2023.

Now renovating works of the Sonepur Care Centre are completed, the centre is able to provide treatment and support to some 720 individuals each year – of whom some 100 are children.

One of the centre’s young patients is Lovabati, who was 18 years old in 2020 when she was treated at Sonepur. The teen was originally diagnosed with leprosy in 2013 and completed MDT in 2014. However, she developed a clawed hand because of nerve damage. LEPRA Society visited her at home, and then arranged for her to have reconstructive surgery on her hand (with pre- and post-operative support at the Sonepur Leprosy Care Centre) which was done in November 2019 and April 2020. This was successful and the appearance and function of her hand has been restored as a result. Lovabati and her family are very happy with the outcome. The teenager’s parents had been worried about the impact that being affected by leprosy would have on her marriage prospects, but these worries have been allayed since LEPRA Society provided treatment and support.

Leprosy: a forgotten disease across the world

Most of us tend think of leprosy as a disease confined to the pages of ancient or medieval history. Few realise that today an estimated 2 to 3 million people in the world are still suffering from this devastating disease.

Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. It mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. Symptoms may occur within one year but can also may take as long as 20 years or even more to show themselves.

Many people around the world continue to suffer from this curable disease due to lack of access to basic medical care and continued stigma surrounding the illness. In 2021 the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated 274,327 people globally were affected with leprosy. Tragically, 15,000 of these were children. New infections are reported globally – but Brazil, Indonesia and India have 74% of the cases.

Despite being declared “leprosy-free” in 2005, India still has an estimated that two million people living with the long-term effects of leprosy. In 2019-20 some 114,451 new leprosy cases were diagnosed in the country. Many of these cases were in children.

It’s not just the physiological aspect of the disease that can be so damaging – leprosy can also have harsh social consequence. People and their families are often marginalised from their communities – adults may lose their livelihoods and children excluded from education.

Children are believed to be the most vulnerable group. Leprosy in children does not just affect their physical health: it can mean that from an early age, they become victims of prejudice and bullying, missing out on school, and shunned for their whole lives. The social and mental impacts of this disease has the potential to destroy their whole lives.

The good news is that Leprosy is curable. Early identification of suspected cases. prompt diagnosis and treatment with multidrug therapy (MDT) can ensure that leprosy is cured, and disability is prevented. The currently recommended MDT regimen consists of medicines: dapsone, rifampicin and clofazimine. These kill the pathogen and cure the patient. More than 16 million leprosy patients have been treated with MDT over the past 20 years.

Our project – Sonepur Leprosy Care Centre

To help fight this devastating disease DATUM’s proposed healthcare project for 2023 was the renovation of the existing Sonepur Leprosy Care Centre in Odisha State, India.

DATUM partnered with LEPRA UK to ensure people affected by leprosy in Sonepur and the surrounding region in Odisha State in India can have access to good quality leprosy healthcare. LEPRA have been providing treatment and support to individuals and communities affected by this disease in India and Bangladesh for nearly 100 years.

The existing Sonepur Leprosy Care Centre serves a predominantly rural region where more than 28% of the population is classified as poor. It provides a whole range of patient leprosy services, including diagnostics, ulcer treatment, physiotherapy, and the supply of tailor-made footwear and disability aids. But, sadly it was in a very poor condition – so much so – that certain buildings could no longer be used.

Urgent repairs were needed to the buildings, along with upgrading the electrical systems, re- decoration, furnishing, and equipment. DATUM funded and helped with these works in several areas of the care centre:

  • Physiotherapy unit 

This is the only facility in Sonepur district that provides specialised leprosy physiotherapy support.

  • Clinical laboratory 

This is where test samples, including slit skin smear tests, are analysed to confirm cases of leprosy.

  • Footwear workshop

This is where special shoes, tailor-made to each individual, are produced by trained shoemakers. The centre is the only producer of these shoes in the whole of Odisha state.

  • Livelihoods training unit

Once renovated, the centre is now able to arrange training workshops for groups of people affected by leprosy to learn skills that will enable them to earn an income and support their families.

  • Kitchen

This is essential to the functioning of the Centre but needed to be brought up to standard and make it operational. This includes a new water supply.

The cost for the renovation of the Sonepur Leprosy Care Centre was a total of £10,000.

DATUM is pleased to confirm that thanks to several very generous donations in late 2022 some £5,000 was already available to undertake this important work, while DATUM’s BIG CHRISTMAS APPEAL 2022‘s target of raising the remaining £5,000 was smashed early 2023.

The Trustees of DATUM Foundation thank you for your support towards this important project and help LEPRA UK to provide treatment and support for men, women and children affected by leprosy in rural Odisha.

The Trustees of DATUM Foundation, and the children of Sonepur and the surrounding region thank you for your support.

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