Ambanja (Agenzia Fides) – In 2002, Madagascar received the WHO's “award for the victory over leprosy,” a disease that has afflicted the island for many years and that today is under control thanks to the work of Catholic
missionaries. In particular, the Saint Damian Center in Ambanja, founded by the Capuchin Friars in the 1960s, has offered advanced care for over 6,000 patients, measures using the Hansen bacillus. Today, the number of people with the disease has lowered to less than 1 per 10,000 inhabitants, however other illness with an epidemic tendency are making a come back. This is why for nearly 15 years, the sanatorium in Ambanja now hosts 21 leprosy patients and 205 with tuberculosis.
To avoid a return of the social segregation that took place in the old days, the sick are hospitalized for two months and later closely observed for another 6 months, which is usually the duration of the treatment process. The procedure they have adopted has convinced the public health system and the entire service is indicated as a model, as well, for the efficient system of self-sufficiency in food products, which includes the cultivation of several acres of terrain. Given the substantial results seen today in the center, a third area has been launched: schooling for children.
“It may seem a paradox that we put patients of leprosy and tuberculosis, along with children all together,” writes Fr. Marino Brizi, OFMCap, Director of the former “Léproserie St. Damien,” in “Continenti.” “But it is better that way and it helps the children to not only learn to read and write, but also to prevent the illness we treat. Illiteracy is the entrance into a vicious circle: ignorance, lack of hygiene, underdevelopment, poverty, leprosy. Breaking the chain of ignorance, disease can be overcome as well.” There are currently about 120 students living there, in addition to another 80 who are treated in the city through long-distance adoption programs. The “Léproserie” continues its work in the medical-surgical center founded by Fr. Stefano Scaringella, OFM Cap. Every year, 6-7,000 people are offered care and there are nearly 2,500 general operations, 300 eye operations, and 200 cesarean births. (AM) (Agenzia Fides 28/7/2009)