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World Leprosy Day: Fighting a curable disease is still a battle in underdeveloped countries

When she was 10 years old the young girl from Kenya was diagnosed with leprosy. Felicita says some of her family members abandoned her while she struggled with the nightmare of the disease. But now telling her story is a dream come true.

Thousands of people all around the globe are fighting leprosy today. On World Leprosy Day people like Flavio Cimini from The Italian Association of friends of Raoul Follereau, or AIFO, aim to raise money and raise public awareness.

Flavio CiminiAIFO“We are also using this day to fight the disease of indifference, the disease of selfishness that’s embedded mostly ; in rich countries the nations where we live.”

Leprosy, a disease caused by bacteria known to cause damage to the skin, nerves and limbs, is on the decline.

According to World Health Organization the number of new cases of leprosy decreased by nearly 50 percent since 2002 mainly due to the effectiveness of multi-drug therapies. Still the number of new cases in India and Brazil are startling. Combined, they registered more than 172 thousand new cases in 2008.

Flavio CiminiAIFO“Leprosy is a disease that still exists especially in developing countries, it’s a illness that many people forget about but affects thousands.”

In 1954, Raoul Follereau established World Leprosy Day he is the person who inspired AIFO. He was a journalist who much like Father Damian, dedicated his life to the fight the disease and the stigma attached to it.

Flavio CiminiAIFO“Father Damian was a saint who was very special, he experienced first hand discrimination because of the disease. In fact he himself died from leprosy.”

Pope Benedict XVI canonized Father Damian last Fall, an event that brought a lot of attention to the cause against leprosy. This year AIFO will also give jar of honey to those who donate money and the NGO is promoting a new book to raise awareness.

Flavio CiminiAIFO“As with everything, public awareness is important, we can’t just ignore this because we are all part of the global community, and like Raoul Follereau would say we all live under the same sky the same sun.”

For Felicita, the sky is the limit. She is cured, and back at school on her way to fulfilling another dream, she hopes to be doctor someday and help fight the disease she once lived with.