We will continue to fight to have a Leprosy Free Fiji – Dr Lalabalavu

We will continue to fight to have a Leprosy Free Fiji – Dr Lalabalavu

By Alipate Narawa
Monday 30/01/2023
Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Atonio Lalabalavu

Although we continue to detect 4 to 7 new cases annually I have confidence in our staff at the Leprosy and Dermatology Department that they will lead us with their expertise, knowledge and skills to achieve our mission.

Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr Atonio Lalabalavu stated this at the World Leprosy Day Celebration at the PJ Twomey Hospital in Tamavua, with the theme Act Now, End Leprosy.

Dr Lalabalavu adds he has also been advised that they are also managing patients from our neighbouring Pacific Island countries and this speaks volume of the role that Tamavua Twomey Hospital is playing in the care of leprosy patients in the region.

He also adds Fiji has its own well documented history of dealing with Leprosy or “Vukavuka” in the iTaukei language.

The Minister says the Catholic Missions in Fiji and in particular, the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary and the Vukevuke Sisters dedicated their lives for the mission of caring for patients with Leprosy from Fiji and the region.

He also says they established themselves and their exemplary humanitarian service at Makogai Island in the Lomaiviti group with the establishment of the Leprosy hospital in 1911.

At that time, there was no effective treatment or cure, so quarantine was the only solution, until 1948 when Dapsone was discovered as a cure for the disease.

The Minister says it is also recorded that some of the carers eventually contracted the disease, and succumbed to the disease as well. He also says the Ministry of Health eventually took over the responsibility in the 1990s with the establishment of the PJ Twomey Hospital as a dedicated hospital for Leprosy.

Dr Lalabalavu adds the establishment of the Pacific Dermatology Training Centre in 2019 is a significant step forward in strengthening our collective effort to eradicate leprosy from Fiji and the region, and also continue to develop and strengthen our regional academic and professional network and relationship.

He further adds that the Ministry of Health and Medical Services with the support of the government will continue to fight to a Leprosy Free Fiji.

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