Bad Homburg v.d. Höhe, October 16, 2023 – Tomorrow evening the Else Kröner Fresenius Award for Development Cooperation in Medicine will be awarded to Dorothy Das Pariyar and Tham Bahadur Gurung from the NGO International Nepal Fellowship (INF Nepal) for the project “70 Years of Leprosy Relief – toward zero leprosy”. Endowed with 100,000 euros, this humanitarian award from the foundation Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung (EKFS) numbers among the most outstanding honors in the field of development cooperation in medicine. The festive award ceremony will be held at the Wintergarten Varieté theater in Berlin.
Leprosy is deemed to be one of the neglected tropical diseases. According to data from the WHO, it still occurs in more than 120 countries. Each year over 200,000 patients come down with the disease worldwide. Although leprosy has been curable for many years now, the afflicted continue to be shunned by society. When suspicion of a leprosy infection arises, the fear of exclusion causes many to be reluctant to seek medical help. If the disease is diagnosed and treated too late, however, the consequences can be visible and irreversible damage, for instance to hands and feet, as well as severely impaired eyesight.
Dr. Judith von Heusinger, in charge of humanitarian funding at EKFS, explains the reasoning behind the choice of the award recipient: “With this year’s award we are honoring a project that demonstrates in particular how due to early detection of the infection along with the diagnosis, treatment or social support thereof the lives and health of those afflicted are consequently improved on a sustainable basis.” The project was nominated by Terra Tech Förderprojekte e.V., a relief organization. Executive Chairman Dr. Gangolf Seitz points out: “We are pleased that with INF Nepal a partner is being honored with the award, one with whom we have been implementing successful projects in the fields of medical care and disaster prevention for over a decade.”
70 years of leprosy relief
The NGO INF Nepal has been helping to diagnose and treat leprosy in western Nepal since 1952. In 1957 it founded the Green Pastures Hospital in Pokhara. The hospital has such a good reputation that patients even come from India. Dorothy Das Pariyar works at the clinic in a capacity as occupational therapist. She is in charge of examining afflicted patients in terms of their abilities and disabilities. This forms the basis for the treatment plan and the decision whether an operation would be an option. “If we diagnose the disease at an early stage, we have the chance to prevent deformities and skin sores,” Das Pariyar emphasizes.
Many people react to the leprosy diagnosis with fear or denial – which is why they are promptly referred to the patient advocate and peer counselor in one Tham Bahadur Gurung. He came to Pokhara as a patient himself at the age of 30. “When I got diagnosed with the disease I had fears about two things: one was fear about the disease itself, the other was will I ever be able to find a girl because of the deformities in my hands.” That’s why the first thing Bahadur Gurung asks patients about is their feelings. Then he helps with forms for health insurance and welfare support, tells about possibilities for therapy, and gives support in talks with relatives.
INF Nepal is going to use the money awarded by EKFS to set forth and improve their innovative approach toward leprosy prevention and the treatment of people with leprosy in the following areas:
- Distinct strengthening in ascertaining contact persons and the preventive examination of family members of people newly diagnosed with leprosy
- Broadening of the qualification program toward upgrading the knowledge and skills of government healthcare personnel in highly disease-burdened districts
- Promotion of the program to improve the ability of leprosy patients to treat their disease themselves in order to prevent subsequent disabilities
- Upscaling the campaign for sensitization and raising awareness in order to reduce stigmatization and enable people with the disease to lead a life with dignity.
The film about the award-winners will be available at 6 p.m. on Oct. 17, 2023 at: https://youtu.be/iH1izCAQpmA
Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung (EKFS) – Advancing research. Helping people.
Else Kröner-Fresenius-Stiftung is a non-profit foundation dedicated to the funding and advancement of medical research and the support of humanitarian projects. To date the foundation has funded around 2,400 projects. With an annual funding volume currently amounting to over 60 million euros it is the largest foundation in Germany that actively funds and supports medicine. You can find more information at: http://www.ekfs.de/en
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