Ganta leprosy and tb rehabilitation centre, Liberia
In recent history, Liberia has suffered two brutal civil wars and in 2020, topped the list of the world’s poorest countries. Against the backdrop of this disruption, poverty and fervent social stigma, people with leprosy have nowhere to go. The Ganta Centre was founded in the mid-1920s, and comprises a hospital, rehabilitation centre, a school and a church. It has capacity for 150 inpatients and can treat up to 50 outpatients per day. SFLG’s grants enable the Ganta Centre to offer help to all those who so desperately need it.
Joseph (63, lives in a rented house)
In 2001, Joseph was married with a child, and working as a farmer. He began to develop white marks on his back and face. As his condition worsened, Joseph decided to seek treatment. Sadly, his family members turned against him when he was diagnosed with leprosy and he said he felt like he was nobody. This social stigma is very common when people contract the disease, and means that family members and friends can abandon people at a time when they most need their support.
As well as treatment and ongoing medication, the Ganta Centre provided Joseph with house rent, clothing and food. Crucially, they also support Joseph’s child in school. He says he feels good when he sees people who were leprosy patients and are now well. Sadly, Joseph’s wife has since died, but he says that the Ganta Centre has saved his life.
The Ganta Centre also contacted many of Joseph’s friends and neighbours and treated them for leprosy, meaning that they could stop this disease from affecting so many more in the community.
Joseph says that he still feels powerless and would like to have his own small business to help himself, and hopes he will get help to achieve this.
Leprosy is a disease that can make you not get a feeling, when you get leprosy be fast to get treatment. Leprosy is a disease that can not be better easily. So if you get leprosy, please be quick to get treatment”.
Jonathon (43, Hope Village)
In 1995, when Liberia was in the throes of a brutal civil war, some United Nations peacekeeping troops visited Jonathon’s village. They noticed spots on his face and body and suggested going to the Ganta Centre, where leprosy was subsequently confirmed. He had been experiencing itchy red spots on his face, which had spread over his body. Jonathon was studying for a degree at that time, and planning to become a doctor. He was desperate to be cured and get back to his studies.
Jonathon suffered severe leprosy reaction after his treatment with multidrug therapy. He also struggled to walk, eat or sleep. But over time, thankfully, this reaction began to subside. During this time, Jonathon “feared that life was going to be meaningless to me”, and his friends told him he was going to die. This was such a frightening and uncertain time, especially for such a young man with a promising future. Jonathon states that in Liberia, leprosy is considered “a hateful disease”, and that even friends and family abandon leprosy sufferers.
The Ganta Centre treated Jonathon, and gave him a purpose by employing him in their Arts and Crafts shop, selling the baskets that patients had woven, and the art they had produced. Jonathon wants to “extend my thanks and appreciation to the St Francis Leprosy Guild who pays me the monthly salary through the Ganta Centre”.
Since starting treatment, Jonathon has married and had a child, and he says that without the Ganta Centre, he would not be able to support them, they would have “perished”. He hopes that the Ganta Centre will help send his children to school, so that they can become doctors, a dream which Jonathon will no longer be able to fulfil for himself. Simply, he hopes for more fellow patients to be cured and accepted back into their families. He would like them all to be trained in various disciplines and be employed. Jonathon has deformities on his fingers and toes but is happy that his parents now welcome him back into the family, and is now focused on his children pursing their dreams.
Jonathon implores the world to: help supply leprosy drugs to all countries that experience the disease and to enforce all governments to encourage parents of leprosy patients to accept their sons, daughters and relations, and include them in the family.”
Livingstone (36, rented house in Ganta City, near to the Ganta Centre)
Livingstone was just four years old when she was diagnosed with leprosy. She experienced fever, red eyes and marks on her face and ears. She said she felt very sad, and was transferred to the Ganta Centre for treatment. At such a young age, Livingstone remembers feeling frightened that she would not get better. Thankfully, the treatment worked quickly and Livingstone was able to walk and hold things with her hands as she had before contracting the disease. As well as treatment, the Ganta Centre continues to provide Livingstone with food, clothes and a home to live in. Livingstone believes she would have died a long time ago, were it not for the Ganta Centre’s ongoing support. She left the Ganta Centre but returned in 2016, then eventually finding her house close by.
Since becoming an adult, Livingstone has had her own children, and she knows the Ganta Centre will help them to get into school and secure their education and futures. She hopes to have her own business some day to feel in charge of her own life. The Ganta Centre has also tested and subsequently treated a number of Livingstone’s friends for leprosy, and she believes they would have died without this.
Livingstone said: leprosy can be healed. People with leprosy are no different to people without leprosy. Leprosy was s sickness that was discovered a long time ago.”