Kirk supported Leprosy projects highlighted at Holyrood

Schoonhaven
Cured lepers at Schoonhaven Lepers Village in Ghana

Vital work supported by the Church of Scotland to help combat the scourge of Leprosy in Africa has been highlighted in the Scottish Parliament.

Kenneth Gibson, SNP MSP for Cunninghame North, spoke about the Schoonhaven Lepers Village in Ghana and Project Mepapa Leprosy in Mozambique during a private members debate to mark World Leprosy Day 2016.

Nearly 214,000 people were diagnosed with Leprosy in 2014 which can, if left untreated, lead to disability and blindness.

Mr Gibson said it was time to increase awareness and work towards "eradicating this horrible disease once and for all".

The debate was led by Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford in an attempt to raise awareness and recognition of an infectious, but curable disease of the skin and nerves that many people think was eradicated in the 20th century.

Dr Murdo Macdonald, a policy officer with the Church of Scotland's Church and Society Council, said it was "really encouraging" to see MSPs recognising the important work being done to help people with Leprosy.

The Schoonhaven Lepers' Village, run by the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana, was established in 1926 as a settlement for people cured of leprosy in the town of Ho who were disowned by their families because of the nature of the disease and the traditional dread for it.

The settlement dubbed "Freetown" provides a safe haven and is currently home to 120 people who survive on peasant farming, stipends from government and donations from well-meaning individuals and organizations.

The Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana, plays a major role in ministering to people with leprosy and their families, by assigning an ordained minister to exercise pastoral oversight of the village.

The Church of Scotland's World Mission Council recently awarded the village a £8,000 grant which was used to buy essential items including high density mattresses, soap, detergents. disinfectants, bags of used clothes and bags of rice, maize, Gari and Cassava Dough.

In the province of Niassa in northern Mozambique, the Mepapa community was established to treat people suffering from leprosy and today it is the home of 50 families with 834 members.

It is estimated that 73 of its members have leprosy.

The community has little support, does not have access to a local health clinic or a school and lacks agricultural input in order to provide subsistence to families.

The Evangelical Church of Christ, Mozambique, a Kirk partner church, provides assistance and services to support the community such as agricultural equipment, seeds, medication, personnel and school resources.

Speaking at Holyrood, Mr Gibson said: "Unfortunately, much of the world does not even know that leprosy still exists, as many associate it with diseases of the ancient past.

"However, it is prevalent and common in more than 100 countries worldwide, with the greatest prevalence in developing countries."

Mr Gibson told MSPs that Leprosy Mission Scotland, which runs around 200 projects in 30 countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, was working tirelessly to 'educate' the people of Scotland about Leprosy.

Mr Gibson, speaking on Thursday, said: "Other projects include the Schoonhaven lepers' village in Ghana, which was established in 1926.

"It is a settlement for people cured of the disease who, when discharged, are often disowned by their families because of the nature of the disease and the traditional dread of it.

"The settlement has since provided a safe haven for 120 people who survive by subsistence farming, government stipends and donations from well-meaning individuals and organisations.

"In Mozambique, the Mepapa community was set up to treat those suffering from leprosy.

"Although the community has little support and no access to a local health clinic or school, the Evangelical Church of Christ in Mozambique, supported by the Church of Scotland, now provides a variety of resources and services to support the community, including agricultural equipment, seeds, medication, personnel and educational resources."

Mr Macdonald worked in Anandaban Leprosy Hospital near Kathmandu, Nepal with his wife Rachel between 2000- 2008.

He said: "Leprosy remains a significant problem in many countries, including Nepal, India and Brazil.

"However, those affected by leprosy are often overlooked, so it is really encouraging to see MSPs recognising the important work that TLM Scotland and the Church of Scotland are doing with those affected by this disease"

Members of Crieff Parish Church have raised more than £500 to help Leprosy sufferers in Nigeria and Nepal.

A lunch was hosted for Terver Anyor and his wife yesterday who spoke about the work of Leprosy Mission in Nigeria and Nepal.