Ali, a 53-year-old man, lives with his family in a Saint-Camille Paspanga center for leprosy located on the outskirts of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The land is flat and bare and the main industries are agriculture and animal breeding. Given the terrain, people in the area face the challenges of bad accessibility due to the poor condition of the roads, lack of electricity and difficulty in accessing clean water.
Ali’s story is similar to many who are forced to leave their communities after contracting leprosy. In Burkina Faso, around 200 new cases of leprosy are diagnosed each year, with more than 90% being the contagious form, according to health authorities. Ali, his wife and five children live together at a Catholic Relief Services center, where they receive Rise Against Hunger meals along with many other families.
Ali shares his story and the path that brought him to the center:
“My mother suffered from leprosy since I was born but she was supported by the whole family. While living in Cote d’Ivoire during my adolescence, I noticed one morning some whitish spots on my face and I felt severe pain in my feet. Worried and confused because I did not know what was happening, my father took me to the clinic. Reviewing the symptoms and guided by medical tests, the nurse informed my father that the leprosy test was positive. My father was not surprised because my mother had leprosy and it could be contagious but I was completely upset. I imagined how disrupted my life would be because I saw how it was for my mother. What could I do or become without some parts of my limbs and without all of my body?
As days passed, I noticed that I was not receiving the same compassion as my mother. I started to experience stigma. The friends with whom I used to play all abandoned me. They forbade me from attending their gatherings. To protect me, my father decided to send me back to our home country in Burkina Faso for treatment, because people infected with leprosy were being taken care of by an NGO. I arrived in Burkina in 1983, and I was welcomed by the Catholic Relief Services center with other leprosy patients. Being there, we continued the treatment at the national center of Tripano’s dermatology department.
After painful treatments over 20 years, I was declared cured. However, the consequences had already settled since I could no longer use my fingers and toes. For people with disabilities, it is very difficult to carry out any professional or income-generating activity to help us sustain our families, and we have benefited from food donations.
According to Brother Louis, Head of the Center, this support was provided by the NGO, Catholic Relief Services and Rise Against Hunger. Since 2014, we have received fortified rice and thanks to this food and the other donations we receive, we are able to meet the food needs of our families.
Being a father of healthy children with a loving and supportive wife, I am aware that I have a responsibility to take care of them. To do so, I do gardening activities and raise livestock. In addition to that, I am employed as a security guard in a health center. The income I get from these activities is entirely used for my family expenses such as education, health, and food. However, the revenue generated remains insufficient. To strengthen my activities and to be totally self-sufficient, I am working to develop animal breeding which is a promising career that I understand perfectly.
I would like to thank the food donors. Their donations help us vulnerable people to have the hope to live longer and work to build a better future for our children. Some of us have a family and we are entitled to happiness. Thank you Catholic Relief Services and Rise Against Hunger!”
Fère Pierre Bilgo is the head of the center where Ali is a beneficiary. He explains that Ali is one of 600 people living at the center with leprosy. He shares that Ali has integrated into the family of lepers in the center and does not hesitate to help others as he can even with his disability.
He also explains that the fortified rice from Rise Against Hunger is of great help and they are consistently getting positive feedback from those who rely on the meals each day. Fère Pierre says, “On behalf of the center and the beneficiaries, we thank Rise Against Hunger for the food. Like Ali, many of the lepers have children who need to go to school and aspire for better lives and we thank you for making that possible.”