The Else Kröner Fresenius Award for Development Cooperation in Medicine 2023 is going to the award-winning duo 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”. The project was nominated by the organization TERRA TECH Förderprojekte e. V. The award ceremony took place on October 17, 2023 at the Wintergarten Varieté theater in Berlin. One of the speakers was Dr. Bärbel Kofler, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development.
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. 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 they are 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.
INF Nepal has been actively engaged on behalf of people afflicted with leprosy in western Nepal for 70 years. Today INF Nepal carries out more than 30,000 outpatient treatments on people with leprosy and admits over 450 patients with leprosy on an inpatient basis each year. Plastic surgery operations are performed at the hospitals, external professionals receive routine and advanced training, and the organization has instituted an extensive leprosy prevention and rehabilitation program.
Dorothy Das Pariyar is active in a capacity as occupational therapist at the only all-embracing leprosy rehabilitation center in Nepal. Leprosy has had a formative influence on Dorothy since her childhood, though she never caught the disease. Raised by her grandparents, who lived at an INF settlement for the leprosy-afflicted, she became familiar with the disease and its consequences early on. “These days there is so much we can do to help people who suffer from the disease or subsequent damage caused by it. In addition to operations and rehabilitation, this also includes preliminary and aftercare treatments, which are part of my work as occupational therapist,” explains Dorothy Das Pariyar.
Tham Bahadur Gurung works in a capacity as patient advocate and peer counselor at the Green Pastures Hospital (GPH) founded by INF Nepal in Pokhara. He was 22 years old when he became infected with leprosy. It was years later that he first learned of the free leprosy treatments at Green Pastures Hospital, where his diagnosis and treatment ultimately took place and he was able to to complete his training to become a peer counselor and lay pastor. “I love all the patients with all my heart, because I myself was in a similar situation and to help them now like I once received help brings me peace and joy,” says Tham Bahadur Gurung.
INF Nepal wants to use the money from the award to set forth the 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 patients to lead a life with dignity
You can obtain more information in the Press Release from Oct. 16, 2023.
In this interview, award winners Dorothy Das Pariyar and Tham Bahadur Gurung talk about their work with leprosy patients.
INF Nepal is a Nepali non-government organisation, serving Nepali people through health and development works to improve the quality of life of individuals, and the community at large. With a legacy spanning 70 years, it focuses on health and developmental initiatives, providing specialised care in areas like physical disability, leprosy treatment, and rehabilitation, obstetric fistula, hearing disabilities, and palliative care, through three hospitals, a fistula center, and outreach programmes. INF Nepal's work extends beyond medical care as it empowers communities through Self-Help Groups, fostering self-reliance and resilience. INF Nepal uses the empowering approach, recognising the significant changes that can be brought about by the community themselves. INF Nepal remains committed to the principle of holistic well-being, transforming lives, and bringing life in all its fullness to the poor and disadvantaged people of Nepal.