SOMALIA: Ade Sheikdon Negeye, "Having leprosy has worsened my displacement"
BELETWEYNE, 24 February 2010 (IRIN) - Displaced and ostracized, his drug supply cut off because of conflict, Ade Sheikdon Negeye, a resident of the town of Beletweyne in central Somalia, is caught up in a cycle of suffering. He is one of 49 leprosy patients displaced from the town when fighting between two Islamist groups intensified in early February in Hiran region, central Somalia. He spoke to IRIN about his plight:
"Like many other patients, my life is in danger because it is now very difficult for us to access drugs or to be treated like other human beings deserving of human rights.
"But even before I got displaced, I had been without medication because aid agencies that used to supply the drugs pulled out of the region six months ago, citing insecurity.
"People with leprosy are more affected by the weather than other displaced people because the intense heat during the day and the extreme cold at night causes our wounds to fester and the skin to crack.
"Since we fled our homes we have suffered so much; our skin is damaged and cracked and, even worse, getting food has become even more difficult.
"In Beletweyne, most of us depended on well-wishers to give us food, ordinary people even helped provide bread, but here in the countryside, where we thought we had escaped fighting, our lives have become worse because people run away from us. There is this myth that people with leprosy eat human flesh; the isolation we are facing is amazing.
"The most unforgettable and heartbreaking thing is the deadly isolation; everybody we come close to runs away; even drivers we asked to help us flee Beletweyne could not - other passengers would shout at them to move on whenever we flagged down a car. This has forced many of us to trek on foot for long distances.
"For me the trekking was terrible, I kept dragging my feet until I was bleeding all over, my limbs looked like raw meat.
"One day, my family told me I could no longer sit with them under one shelter and that I could no longer sleep in the same hut as them. They dragged me out, far away from them. Since then, I have moved from trouble to trouble.
"Everywhere I go, fingers are pointed at me as if I am a criminal. I have identified one tree under which I sit when no one is around; I have made it my home since I can't rejoin my family. My people [Somalis], unsurprisingly, believe that any person suffering from this disease is a man-eater; I think this is why everyone runs away from me."