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"Today, leprosy belongs in the category of neglected tropical diseases"
"Today, leprosy belongs in the category of neglected tropical diseases"
Martine Valo

MBALLING — Some 20 people, all officially cured of leprosy, are sitting together at the functional rehabilitation center in Mballing, Senegal. But seeing them calls to mind the ancestral fears linked with this disease: club foots, mere leg or arm stumps, hands without fingers, misshapen faces, washed-out eyes that can no longer be opened.

The leprosarium in Mballing — a town located on the Atlantic coast, 80 kilometers from Dakar — opened in 1955, when Senegal was still a French colony and when leprosy was still incurable. For the authorities, it was about isolating lepers from the rest of society.

Delinquents were also sent here. In 1976, a law turned leprosariums into “villages of social rehabilitation,” transforming these internment camps into places where the sick and their families could enjoy some form of social life again. There are nine such villages across Senegal. But Mballing has since become a town with between 250 and 300 current and former patients and a total population of 5,600.

The people present this morning are all over 70. They formed two mutual aid groups — one for men, the other for women — launched a charity and are part of a microcredit scheme. In a nearby room, three other former patients are soaking their legs in an antiseptic product. Leprosy has deteriorated their nervous systems. They can’t feel their limbs, so they don’t notice when they hurt their feet and when their wounds become infected. Some women want to keep cooking despite the illness and often burn themselves without even noticing. Many suffer from permanent ulceration.

At the other end of the room, a 12-year-old boy observes the scene. A spot on his skin indicates that he’s also infected. But because he has been treated since this first symptom appeared, chances are very good that he will be cured without the stigmatizing amputations that the elders had to experience. For that, though, he must scrupulously follow a lengthy poly antibiotic treatment (up to two years) that is generally well tolerated and costs relatively little (under $50 for a six-month treatment), although the World Health Organization provides it for free.

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Society

End Of Roe v. Wade: Will It Spark Anti-Abortion Momentum Around The World?

Pro-life activists celebrated the end of the U.S. right to abortion, hoping it will trigger a new debate on a topic that in some places had largely been settled: in favor a woman’s right to choose. But it could also boomerang.

Thousands of people demonstrate against abortion in Madrid

Lisa Berdet, Lila Paulou and Shaun Lavelle

The Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a constitutional right to abortion put the United States at the forefront of abortion rights in the world.

Other countries would follow suit in the succeeding years, with France legalizing abortion in 1975, Italy in 1978, and Ireland finally joining most of the rest of Europe with a landslide 2018 referendum victory for women’s right to choose. Elsewhere, parts of Asia and Africa have made incremental steps toward legalizing abortion, while a growing number of Latin American countries have joined what has now been a decades-long worldwide shift toward more access to abortion rights.

But now, 49 years later, with last Friday’s landmark overturning of Roe v. Wade, will the U.S. once again prove to be ahead of the curve? Will American cultural and political influence carry across borders on the abortion issue, reversing the momentum of recent years?

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