March 26, 2023

DISEASE – Ali Saga pushes the doors of a clinic Jakarta, the Indonesian capital. Barely entered, patients and caregivers run away from him at full speed. It was forty years ago, one of his most painful memories, as he recounts in the video above.

Suddenly, the doctor shouted to the patients, “Stand back! He’s a leper!”“, remembers the 57-year-old man, who is struggling to contain his tears. It is then pricked brutally with a syringe to test its sensitivity. ” Maybe my skin felt nothing but my soul was bruised “, says this former patient diagnosed in the 1970s.

His pain now serves a good cause. On the outskirts of Jakarta, Ali Saga delivers homemade prostheses to crippled residents, helping them get back to normal life.

Like many former lepers, Ali lives in the village of Tangerang, where thehospital Sitanala where a large number of patients stayed before choosing to stay there at the end of their treatment. Pathology often considered shameful, leprosy is a transmissible disease that attacks the skin and peripheral nerves, with potentially very serious sequelae. Today, a biopsy is enough to diagnose it and antibiotics to treat it.

“Leper Colony”

Due to the presence of these patients, long considered pariahs, the local media have nicknamed this village, the “leper colony”. In question: very resistant received ideas. Many Indonesians believe that leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a divine curse that only a brief contact can transmit.

Ali Saga fights in his own way against this condition, the impact of which is both physiological and social. In his dusty little studio, fake limbs hang from the walls, waiting to change lives. Like that of Cun San, a 70-year-old neighbor of Ali, who can get up again after being leg amputated in his youth and losing the second in 2007.

I thought I could never again walk…but now I’m so grateful to be able to walk normally “, welcomes the old man, who earns his living as a tailor.

Jumangun is also among those whom Ali Saga helped for free. The 60-year-old driver lost a leg in his youth and for a long time had to make do with a bamboo stump, because a real prosthesis was far too expensive. ” It was painful and I still had to use a cane to stabilize myself when I walked. “, he explains to theAFP. With his new leg, he lives again. ” Looks like a real foot and I no longer have pain when I walk he says.

An artificial limb can cost up to 10 million Indonesian rupiah (about 614 euros), but Ali offers some free, or accepts small sums. Since 2005, he claims to have manufactured more than 5,000 artificial legs for customers from all overIndonesia.

Eradicate the disease by next year

Behind the Brazil and India, theIndonesia is the country with the most leprosy patients, transmitted by long contact with untreated carriers. As part of World Leprosy Day this Sunday, January 29, the Ministry of Health Indonesian reported 15,000 people receiving medical treatment for leprosy, including more than 11,000 new cases reported last year.

According to experts, leprosy is not close to being eradicated, in particular because of the prejudices of which the patients are ashamed, which distances them from the medical system. If these barriers do not fall, the transmission will not stop and the infirmities will continue “laments Asken Sinaga, director of NLR Indonesia, an NGO which fights against leprosy.

Indonesia has the objective of eliminating the disease by next year, a major challenge for this archipelago which has devoted significant financial resources to the fight against the disease. covid. As for those who have suffered from leprosy, they simply wish to be treated like others. ” I hope people stop judging us and instead help us hopes Cun San.

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