We recently spoke to Mr Bhatty, one of the surgeons here at Transform, about his charity work in Pakistan.
Mr Bhatty spends 2 weeks every 6 weeks volunteering for the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC), which is based in Karachi, Pakistan. Their mission statement, as advertised on their website, is as follows:
MALC is committed to eliminate Leprosy & control TB and Blindness, in Leprosy affected areas of Pakistan through comprehensive care and with unparalleled passion. In communities, our resolve is to ensure social justice and access to education and health services. The person is always in the centre of our concern.
Through the efforts of MALC and other organisations Pakistan has been able to control leprosy 4 years prior to the WHO target year, and this achievement has been sustainable (source). There is still misunderstanding of the condition though, and Mr Bhatty says one of the main struggles the clinic faces is to get people to visit, and to gain their trust.
Source: MALC website
While it’s not something we encounter much in the UK, leprosy is still relatively prevalent in certain parts of the world. It is a chronic infection which causes granulomas on nerve endings, skin and eyes. These granulomas cause the characteristic scaly appearance of the skin, and unfortunately these disfigurations can remain even after a patient is cured of the disease.
Surgeons such as Mr Bhatty offer their services to allow people who have been disfigured by the disease to reintegrate into society. After being cured, people can encounter social stigma that can prevent them from gaining employment, and can be a knock to their dignity.
Mr Bhatty in surgery
By working with people who have been cured and offering them corrective surgery, damage that can be caused by the condition such as eyes which are sealed open, cramped hands, or a saddle nose can be corrected.
These pictures show a patient’s hand
after surgery, and how he is now able
to hold a cup
This effort is part of the 5 part elimination programme offered by MALC to leprosy victims and their families:
- Chemotherapy – all new patients on regular treatment.
- Prevention and Treatment of Deformity.
- Examination of Patient’s contact for early case detection and treatment.
- Social and Economical Rehabilitation of patients and their families.
- Health Education, Awareness and Community empowerment.
The 97% cure rate of leprosy cases in 2012 is indicative of the success of these efforts, but Mr Bhatty emphasises that leprosy is only fully controlled in Karachi. People are still transported to the clinic from areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan, and the education and awareness campaigns need to increase to ensure people who may be suffering from leprosy attend for treatment.
Mr Bhatty says that this work is “what I need to do”, and feels pleased that the amount of people visiting his clinic has fallen so much since he started volunteering in 1990.