History of leprosy in the Republic of Yemen
In this country people with leprosy would often retreat into caves near the villages where they used to live.
In 1963 a building to shelter people with leprosy, who had been rejected by their family and friends, was constructed in a village about two kilometres outside the city of Taiz. The city has since expanded and this shelter is now in Taiz. Physicians from Yemen, Russia and Egypt, as well as from the non-governmental organisation Rädda-Barnen, visited regularly to diagnose cases of leprosy and to recommend the treatment of the time, Dapsone monotherapy, and later Clofazimine and Rifampicin.
In 1973, Dr Sister Garth Rode from the Missionaries of Charity and five nuns began institutional care of people with disabilities due to leprosy. Mother Teresa named this institution for people affected by leprosy the City of Light. Today the City of Light also houses the National Hospital for Dermatology and Venereology and Leprosy.
The Director of the Al-Gumhory Hospital, Dr Yasin Al-Qubati, began mobilising national and international resources for leprosy programmes in the early nineteen-eighties. In 1982 the World Health Organization offered assistance with logistics, enabling Dr Al-Qubati to start tracing contacts in villages throughout Yemen, using personal information about former leprosy patients and the Missionaries of Charity register of leprosy cases. WHO also helped arrange for an expatriate to train laboratory technicians in performing slit skin smears to confirm the diagnosis of leprosy. From 1983 to 1993 Dr H Bruce Ostler of the Proctor Foundation University of California paid several visits to correct eye problems in leprosy patients.
In 1989 the Deutsche Lepra- und Tuberkulosehilfe (DAHW) signed an agreement with the Ministry of Health and Population to further strengthen field work. Among other things, DAHW supported training of medical officers both locally and abroad, provided cars and encouraged dermatologists to join the National Leprosy Elimination Programme as supervisors and trainers of primary health care workers. The training of primary health care workers can be seen as the start of integrating leprosy activities into the existing health system.
The northern and southern parts of Yemen were united into the Republic of Yemen in May 1990. The following year, an assessment was made of the leprosy situation in the southern part of the country. Mobile teams were trained by the WHO and DAHW to carry out field control activities, including treatment with multi-drug therapy. These teams also informed the community about leprosy through health education in schools, mosques, military camps and other community groups.
The Yemen Leprosy Elimination Society (YELEP) was launched in January 1992 by Dr Al-Qubati to help with anti-leprosy activities.
In 1994, DAHW and YELEP worked together and extended the area of work of the NLEP to the rest of the Republic of Yemen. There were 64 leprosy clinics throughout the country, which resulted in increased case detection of leprosy and greater coverage of multi-drug therapy for leprosy patients. Two years later it was possible to begin closing down some of these clinics or run them on a monthly or quarterly basis only because cases of leprosy were rare. However in 1998, a Leprosy Elimination Campaign in Hodeidah Province led to the detection of many more cases of leprosy.
By the end of 2003 over 5,800 people had been treated for leprosy and the rate of registered cases was 2.4 per 10,000 population. By 2007 WHO reported 434 new cases of leprosy in the Republic of Yemen.
Myths about leprosy in the Republic of Yemen
There were many myths about leprosy in the Republic of Yemen, but education activities including messages on the radio and television, newspaper articles, printed information and training are extending knowledge about leprosy and helping to background these myths. For example, there was the belief that a person affected by leprosy walking in the rain might transmit their leprosy via the rain drops to the crops and then to those who ate the agricultural products. It was also feared that a lit lantern of a person affected by leprosy could draw people to enter their caves and that they might catch leprosy from those affected.
Presentation on Leprosy in Yemen made in July 2008
Click on link for presentation on leprosy in the Republic of Yemen made at the WHO Eastern Mediterranean National Leprosy Programme Managers' Meeting in Tunis, Tunisia, 7th - 9th July 2008.
Presentation on leprosy in Yemen made in July 2009
Click on link for presentation on leprosy in Yemen made at the WHO Eastern Mediterranean National Leprosy Programme Managers' Meeting, held in Cairo, 15th - 16th July 2009.
Award of Dr A T Shousha Foundation Prize for 2003
Dr Yasin Al-Qubati was presented with the 2003 Dr A T Shousha Foundation Prize and Medal at the 50th Session of the WHO Regional Committee for the Eastern Mediterranean in June 2003. This award honoured Dr Al-Qubati’s dedication to public health and especially controlling leprosy and his lifelong commitment to the care and well-being of people affected by leprosy in the Republic of Yemen.
He became interested in leprosy when he was still a student at the College of Medicine in Cairo and met people affected by leprosy at the Qasr Al-Aini Hospital and at Egyptian leprosaria such as Abu-Zaabal and Al-Kalaa. Dr Al-Qubati graduated as a dermatologist in 1980 and spent the following years mobilising national and international support for leprosy control and relief. He was instrumental in developing the National Leprosy Elimination Programme in Yemen. He has raised awareness of leprosy among the community. He has also helped organise services for the prevention of disability, as well as rehabilitation services. His public health interests include control of leishmaniasis and onchocerciasis and improving the quality of care in the national health system in the Republic of Yemen. In addition, he played a prominent role in the establishing the School of Medicine at Taiz University in 1999.