Former leprosy sufferers on Friday testified at a Vatican conference about the stigma linked to the disease that still persists in some societies, and about their attempts to fight exclusion.
Although it has been eradicated almost globally through treatments developed in the 1980s, leprosy still affects 200,000 people a year, particularly in India, Indonesia and Brazil, while the stigma attached goes on long after sufferers have been cured.
“At 14, I was diagnosed with leprosy. My parents loved me and to prevent me from being hurt or burned by others, they locked me in a small house,” said Yuan Yahua, born into a poor farming family in China.
Vagavathali Narsappa, an Indian who leads an association for former sufferers, was driven out by his parents and he only reunited with his sister when she learned he and his children were healthy.
Japanese Natsuko Tominaga, 80, stayed at a leper colony for 60 years, despite being cured aged 18, so he could support fellow sufferers, who he considered family.
More than 200 people, including victims of the disease and researchers, took part in the congress on Thursday and Friday.
“Exclusion still exists,” Follereau Foundation chief executive officer Michel Recipon said, adding that testimonies from sufferers was invaluable in changing perceptions in areas of the world still fearful of leprosy.
About 20,000 sick or disabled people flocked to Rome on Friday for a series of Vatican events that wind up today with a Mass lead by Pope Francis in Saint Peter’s Square.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
‘SHOW RESTRAINT’: Kismayo elder Adan Jama said that dead bodies were strewn in the battle zone and civilians were fleeing as the fighting had affected several villages At least 20 people have been killed in southern Somalia in clashes between militia from rival clans fighting over land, officials and witnesses said on Thursday. Tensions between fighters from the Owrmale and Majerten clans, which live about 30km outside the southern city of Kismayo, have been rising in recent weeks. “The fighting intensified today, and 20 people from the two sides were killed and dozen others including civilians wounded. This is a horrible situation that needs to be stopped,” local government official Abdikarin Mohamed said. “The dead bodies are strewn in the battle zone and civilians are fleeing as the fighting has