Leprosy in Nigeria, 2009

Documentary

Woman who's just been told she has leprosy.

I walked into this room in Okegbala Hospital, Kwara State, Nigeria and the light coming through the one window was so clear I thought I’d stay here for a little while, photographing the doctor examining his patients. This woman was the first patient. She had a few light skin lesions on her arms and the doctor looked them over. I took this photo as he told her what I believe she probably knew already: all the signs pointed to her having leprosy. Later lab tests confirmed this. It takes 7-10 years for the leprosy bacterium to reveal itself in a body through symptoms such as skin lesions and areas of numbness, so even if she hadn’t been around people directly infect with leprosy in the last 7 years, it may well have been contracted well before then.

 

On the way to market

Mohammed Damargo kindly invited me into his yard to listen to his story and photograph him before his son took him to market on a trailer so he could spend all day begging. He was 16 when he was diagnosed with a disease some 40 years ago by a native doctor. He took the prescribed treatment which was a mixture of pounded leaves and dirty water left to infuse together for 7 days. After 10 years of taking this medecine but without improvement a European man came along who immediately diagnosed the disease as leprosy and came back the next day with drugs to take. He took the medecine for 1 and a half years before moving to Kuta, the current area he’s in which used to have a clinic nearby. He’s lived here for the past 30 years. In that time, due to skin lesions and damaged nerves  parts of his body have become infected and he has lost one lower arm, most of his hand on the other arm, all his toes and much of his face has sunken in making his words hard to distinguish. He finds hard to eat anything except a bowl of dried maize off the cob. Each day his son takes him to work in the wheelbarrow (shown) where he begs. It is impossible for him to do any other work and he gets no benefits as we might in this country.

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