Tags / Leper Community
In Ethiopia living with leprosy has enormous social implications. Though it is not contagious, contracting the disease forces most people to a solitary life, or at best, into a leper community such as are found throughout the country. Medicinal and educational advances see understanding of the disease growing in Ethiopia, not least apparent at The Alert hospital, a charitable hospital funded primarily through European aid that provides inexpensive or free treatment to many victims of leprosy.
The Alert hospital is situated in a slum, where a small group of women gather to fight their condition; they've created a small business in which they knit, sew and sell traditional garments and bedding, earning a small salary that contributes to the well being of their families. Life continues to be difficult, but several women are able to provide schooling, food, and a home for their children and ease some of the distress of living with leprosy.
Leprosy has been identified as a major health problem in Ethiopia since the 1950's, when the effort to control leprosy began by the establishment of a National leprosy office in the Ministry of Health with the support of German Leprosy Relief Association (GLRA). There are three main regions where Leprosy is still endemic, that is Oromiya, Amhara and SNNPRG in the Central and South Eastern highlands.
Following the introduction of MDT and the consequent reduction in the duration of treatment, there resulted a constant and steady decline in the prevalence of leprosy. Due to the reduction in number of patients registered, which has also reduced the workload of leprosy services, they have integrated the leprosy program within the general health services. The integration services covers a wider geographical area and is closer to the community. This integration is believed to reduce the stigma associated with leprosy and they think may have an impact on the epidemiology.
Today however lepers are rarely included in society. In Northern Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, thousands of lepers lives in poverty with their families, excluded from Ethiopian society. Their plight is nothing new in this poor East African country. Since the 19th century Western travelers or scientists have described the harsh living conditions of these outcast carrying, as thought back then, a very contagious sickness. About three thousand live in this northern slum, trying to survive by begging on the streets of the capital, or near the only church of the area. Such a woman, Kelbe Adamu, 60 years old, left her small village hoping to find better understanding of her countrymen in the capital. She was quickly disappointed, as her life did not improve. However with time she was able to find a small job sewing traditional Ethiopian clothes and bed sheets with other women lepers, making a small living, enough to feed herself and her grandchildren born in the slum.
But not all is bleak. A group of women with leprosy have gotten together to fight their condition. They created a small business where a dozen or so of these women knit and put together traditional garments and bed sheets. Using their bare hands and ancients machinery, these women have managed to organize a small business where they can earn a small salary from their sales. Kelebe, 60 years old, is one of these women. She arrived in the slum from the Northern part of the country to start over and perhaps find a better life after her husband died. She brought with her, her children, cousins, and other relatives, to increase their chances of survival. Once there, she was quickly reminded that her condition would not make things life easy for her and her family. She managed to find a shack made out of mud with metal roofing, and dirt floors. She, however did not give up, and joined these businesswomen. The fruit of her work has helped her to feed herself as well as her family members. In fact it has allowed her to prosper, buy new close and give some schooling to the youngest in her family.
With an ongoing fix price of 50$ for the most expensive bedding, the little company has been able to sustain itself for a few years now, feeding a dozen family. However this small grouping seem to be the exception to the rule. Most lepers in the slum keep starving; their offspring have no more future than their parents did before them, and the government seems uninterested in helping this portion of the population.
Kelebe Adamu with her blue head scarf (C) is checking out good deals at the local market where charcoal is sold by locals from the countryside in the leper slum in Northern Addis Ababa July 21 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Charcoal is in the slum the only way to heat up during the winter months of July and August.
One of Kelebe's neighbors is greeting her after her return form the market, inside the slum for lepers in Northern Addis Ababa July 18 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This woman has had a bad case of leprosy for many years, which has attacked her fingers and hands.
Two women with leprosy are being treated at the Alert hospital, the only facility that treats lepers and other kind of skin sicknesses in the Lepers slum of Northern Addis Ababa July 18, 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. These women have come from the countryside to get a free treatment, and potentially get an amputation in some cases.
Kebele Adamu (L) is doing small talk with her fellow friends (R) at the main local church during their daily purification appearance inside the Northern lepers slum of Addis Ababa July 15, 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her grandaughter (lower L) sometimes comes with her to get a little taste of what matters in their lives of poverty and hardship.
Kelbe Adamu is marching towards the main local church for her daily appreance inside the slum for lepers of Addis Ababa July 15, 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Many lepers from the slum go to this church each day to pray, and believe that this will help them get better.
Kelebe Adamu (C) is touching a picture of Jesus during her daily appearance at the main local church in the Northern slum of Addis Ababa July 15 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The lepers who go to this church will always touch the walls, and the religious pictures to bring luck and good fortune to them.
A leper leans on one of the walls of the main Christian church of the lepers Northern slum of Addis Ababa July 15 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In desperation she drops her head in her hands. Life in the slum in consistantly hard with very little help from the outside, execpt for their belief in God.
Kelbe Adamu (R), a leper with leprosy for many decades, and her granddaughter (L) are on their way to a local church for their weekly appearance on July 12, 2007, in Ethiopia. Kelbe (R) has a bad case of leprosy, but her family members do not. Leprosy is not contagious.
Kelbe Adamu (R) is preparing coffe inside her home closely watched by one of her grandaughter (L) , inside the slum for lepers of Addis Ababa July 12 2007 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. Cafe is a big part of Ethiopian society which uses it often in family settings. She only uses a hot plate on which to roast the bean, and a pot for fire.
Kelebe Adamu (R) is helping to feed a young daughter (C) of one of the women working at the workshop in the lepers slum of Northern Addis Ababa, July 11 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Young kids, too young to watch after themselves stay with their parents inside the workshop.
Kelebe Adamu (C), is leaving her work place with a few collegues to go home in the lepers slum of Northern Addis Ababa July 12 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On average these women work 8 hours a day, 6 days a week earning enough money to survive a little better than their neighbor who usually do not have work.
A local man with leprosy is using a traditional cotton treatment device inside the workshop in the leper colony of Northern Addis Ababa July 11 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It helps to extend and put together the various layers of cotton for form tradition Ethiopian covers.
Kelebe Adamu is preparing herself before knitting at the women's workshop inside the Lepers slum in Northern Addis Ababa on July 11 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. About 25 women work at this workshop, knitting, accounting, feeding clients, trying to make a living as a small community.
A leper woman, working at the workshop, is using a roller to help her knit cotton for the making of traditional Ethiopian covers in the Northern Lepers slum of Addis Ababa July 11 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. This is the second step of the process, which makes ready the cotton for use.
An old leper man is sitting on a side of the road in the leper's slum in Northern Addis Ababa showing his faith in Jesus July 10 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Locals are devout Christians, showing their faith in their everyday lives; it also allows them believe in a future cure.
Kelbe Adamu is extending cotton inside her bedroom to prepare her knitting inside the slum for lepers of Addis Ababa July 10 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She has made knitting her livelihood, selling her traditional work to clients, foreigners or locals.
A view of Kelbe Adamu's bedroom wall, a sign of deep religious faith, inside the slum for lepers of Addis Ababa July 10 2007 in Addis Ababa Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a mostly Christian state, with a strongly religious population. However, 33% are Muslims, mostly in the Eastern part of the country.
A 40 year old leper, called Wede Astaleke is being checked by a doctor at the Alert hospital after her operation on her legs in the lepers slum of Northern Addis Ababa July 10, 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Due to her remote birth place, she arrived at the hospital inside the slum too late to escape the amputation, she therefore lost her right leg.
The president of the workshop organization is keeping track of his sales from his office inside the lepers slum of Addis Ababa July 9 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Like all the workers at the workshop, he is a leper, with major disabilities in his hands and legs.
The second in charge (C), a woman with leprosy is watching for any inperfection in her worker's labor inside the workshop building inside the lepers slum of Northern Addis Ababa July 8 2007 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Each piece made is reviewed by her and some help before it can be sold on the markets or to foreigners.