Our contribution to the health of the very poorest people calls for our involvement in various different ways. We possess an extensive tool chest of solutions.
When poor people are already ill or even disabled, we make it possible for them to receive treatment in order to cure the ailment or to overcome the disability. When necessary, we provide for their physical rehabilitation and, in cases of permanent disability, support the integration of sufferers in their families and social environment.
Sometimes entire communities are threatened by diseases, or illness and death epitomise the generally miserable conditions in which the people are living. In these cases, as well as providing direct medical aid, we also set about combating the causes in collaboration with the local people.
At all times, the goal of our medical interventions is the full physical and mental recovery of the sick. This is where a large proportion of our resources is spent. Where serious disease has left permanent disability, we facilitate physical and social rehabilitation of the afflicted. When victims of leprosy are helpless and have no-one to look after them, we give them the support they need in order to be able to lead a decent life.
Wherever possible, the emphasis is on helping people to help themselves. There are, however, many people, especially the elderly and abandoned, with severe leprosy disabilities for whom we replace the missing family support and finance appropriate accommodation for the rest of their lives.
We campaign to ensure that children afflicted with leprosy do not suffer social exclusion. We facilitate school attendance in the normal village school. If children are prevented from attending school, for example on account of extended hospitalisation, we ensure that special tuition arrangements are available.
Our help reaches the most underprivileged people in society. We strengthen the ability of families to maintain and improve their health. Community-based health care begins with an awareness of the most serious health problems and with the search for solutions. We start by developing committees, forming self-help groups, training volunteers and equipping them with the materials they need for their work with the afflicted.
Without expert accompaniment and support, basic structures of this nature would be unable to survive, for which reason we work in conjunction with local civil society organisations coming from the same socio-cultural environment. Strengthening these organisations’ expertise is one of the keys to achieving sustainable improvements in conjunction with the sufferers.
Community volunteers can for example ensure that all the children in a community are vaccinated and give out medicines for simple illnesses. Nevertheless, they are unable to achieve miracles. A seriously ill person needs expert aid. This is why we support the national basic healthcare services at the communal level (Primary Health Care). We support health centres and district hospitals so that they are able to offer essential services to all with easy reach and at an affordable price.
We ensure that the sick are treated equally irrespective of ethnic background or religion and that particular account is taken of the needs of women and children. In order to strengthen the health system in this way, we work with national as well as private or denominational institutions that may be present. We improve and supplement the equipment, train the staff, check the care quality and organise regular supervision. All of this work is carried out by our local experts and project teams.
Where it is necessary and sensible to provide better care for leprosy sufferers, we get involved by supporting national programmes. However, we do not finance measures for which the national health system possesses the financial resources and expertise. Our goal is to develop and maintain an adequate system of healthcare.
Often we conduct specific training on leprosy, TB,TB-HIV and other poverty-related diseases. In addition, we regularly carry out model projects that demonstrate how infected people can be identified better and at an earlier stage and the disease treated more effectively. In isolated cases, we also support research aimed at building up a dependable picture of the actual prevalence of infections, care quality and the situation of the people.