Mukh Lal became a change agent

Dambar Ale writes….

Mukh Lal Yada of Banauta village,  Mahottari district has a lovely wife with three little children. Mukh Lal came to Lalgadh Hospital to present a skin complaint in 2002. He was diagnosed as having  leprosy on his first visit to Lalgadh Hospital and later referred to the local health post for continuation of his treatment. Sadly a short time later he developed foot drop in his left foot. He completed all the anti-leprosy drugs but because of his foot drop he found it difficult to walk. This meant that there was a high risk of him getting ulcers on his feet due to the permanent loss of sensation and constant contact with the rough ground. People in his community started labelling him as a leprosy patient because of his foot. People also started saying that the disease he had was infectious and incurable. Neighbours stopped Mukh Lal from collecting drinking water from their private tube well and life became much more difficult for his family.

One day, a District Tuberculosis and Leprosy Assistant (DTLA) informed the Lalgadh hospital staff about the problems that Mukh Lal was facing in the village. A small team of Stigma Elimination Programme staff went to visit Mukh Lal with the DTLA. The team found that Mukh Lal was facing many problems due to discrimination from his community. The team tried to convince the main leaders that his leprosy was not a threat to anyone in the village. It was very hard to change their views towards leprosy. Instead, they argued that Mukh Lal�s leprosy was not cured as they had noticed his disease gradually worsening. They said that if he had been cured he would not have his foot drop.

It was very difficult for Mukh Lal to collect water from the common water source, which is around half a kilometer from his house. No one was there to help him to bring water from that distance. To overcome this problem, the rehabilitation team immediately installed a tube well in his courtyard, as his neighbours were not letting him have access to water from their private tube well. A new house was also built for his family.

Mukh Lal then got an opportunity to have his drop foot surgically corrected  in Lalgadh Leprosy Service Centre. He also received two weeks self care training in LLSC. Community people were surprised to see Mukh Lal return home with an almost normal foot. Surprisingly they changed their behavior towards him after learning how they could also help in eliminating the disease of leprosy and the social stigma towards it, when they watched a street drama about leprosy.

Mukh Lal decided to teach self care skills to the people affected by leprosy and who had impairments and disabilities like him in his village and the surrounding villages . He wanted to prevent others from experiencing similar social, physical and economical problems as a result of their disability and deformities. Mukh Lal eventually started a self-care cell in his village with ten members affected by leprosy with impairments, disabilities, ulcers and deformities. The Self Care Cell has been functioning regularly on weekly basis for two years with technical assistance from Lalgadh Leprosy Service Centre and the support of government health post.

Mukh Lal is the only breadwinner in his family as his wife is mentally disabled. The Rehab unit built a house for his family and he was also provided with a small buffalo as a mid term income generation project. He was provided a second hand bicycle and a sack of salt for starting a small business in the local market. He earns RS 125 (90p) profit by selling one sack of salt. He is just exploring this business at the moment  as there is no meaningful profit from this business. He is also planning to sell brown sugar instead of salt as soon as possible. He has planned to sell a few goats and one grown buffalo with the money he then would a purchase a milking buffalo. If he is able to buy a milking buffalo it would provide a daily source of income from the milk.

Mukh Lal was living painful life due to the consequences of leprosy. He also faced heavy economical losses as he had to sell almost all the small pieces of land he owned and all he had in order to pay the expensive bills for his daughter’s treatment in private clinics in India when she too got ill. Due to the selfish yet understandable behaviour of his neighbours, and lack of support from his own brothers, he was about to leave his native village due to growing pressure and discrimination that he was facing. The timely medical and rehabilitation assistance provided by Lalgadh Leprosy Service Centre prevented him from being ousted from his village. Mukha Lal Yadav has been a model in his village as he teaches self-care skills to other people affected by leprosy in government Health Post premises. He truly has become a change agent in a community where there was very high stigma against people affected by leprosy.