As part of the implementation of the socio-economic reintegration project for people affected by leprosy, Service Yezu Mwiza in collaboration with the NGO Action Damien Burundi and the National Integrated Leprosy and Tuberculosis Program (PNILT), distributed school kits to 1045 schoolchildren whose parents are members of 21 associations of people affected by leprosy, spread over 8 endemic provinces, namely Cibitoke, Bubanza, Rumonge, Bururi, Makamba, Rutana, Ruyigi and Cankuzo, from 12 to 16 September 2022.

Distribution of school kits in the associations of Ndava from Cibitoke province

Leprosy is a chronic bacterial disease that attacks the skin and peripheral nerves and, if left untreated, can lead to permanent impairment of the skin, nerves, face, hands and feet, as well as disability and social exclusion. According to Edmond NDUWIMANA, in charge of monitoring associations of people affected by leprosy at Service Yezu Mwiza, this distribution is carried out at the beginning of each school year, in order to support the members of these associations:

We have more than 535 members grouped in 21 associations, some of them are still undergoing treatment, others are certainly cured, but many of them were treated late and some parts of their bodies have been severely damaged, even amputated, and as a result, they are unable to carry out activities that could generate income to support their families. It has been found that the majority of children of people affected by leprosy often drop out of school because their parents do not have the means to buy school kits. Through this distribution, we want to ensure that none of their children miss out on education due to lack of school kits“, he adds.

Nyamakarabo: family photo after the distribution of school kits

The members of the associations did not hide their joy after receiving school kits that will allow their children to continue their studies: “The dream of every parent is to see all his children go to school to have a bright future. Seeing the children of vulnerable people like us, going to school with the complete school kit like the others of our neighbors, is for us a pride. We thank very much Service Yezu Mwiza in collaboration with Action Damien and PNILT, for having made our dream possible”, testifies Mrs. Diane, Mudende zone in Rumonge province.

Family photo with various members of associations of people affected by leprosy in Mudende from Rumonge province

For Mossius Napoléon Ndikumana, leprosy focal point at the PNILT, the fact that most people in rural areas are unschooled is also one of the reasons for the proliferation of this disease in endemic areas: “when they fall ill, they run to witchdoctors, believing it is black magic and in the meantime, the disease is getting worse and worse, but also continues to contaminate others without knowing it. We therefore want to eradicate the evil at the root, by trying to allow the education of their descendants, so that the latter, if once they develop the signs of leprosy, they will have sufficient knowledge to seek treatment in time in health structures”.

Butara: One of the schoolchildren happy to have received the school kits

It should be noted that the fact that people affected by leprosy were grouped into associations was a trigger, as those who were already in the associations, found those who were hiding for fear of discrimination and stigmatisation. All the members are actively involved in case finding to eradicate the disease in their community and refer them to care facilities.