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Last Updated: Monday, 14 June, 2004, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Somali's forgotten lepers at risk
By Mohamed Olad Hassan
BBC, Mogadishu

More than 900 Somali lepers are on the verge of death because they have run out of food and medicine, their leader says.

Haashi Siyad, said their conditions had worsened due to drought.

Somalia's last government, toppled in 1991, had given aid to the Faragurow leper camp but they had now been ignored for 14 years, he said.

Some 490 of the lepers had injured legs and hands and so were unable to leave the camp to seek aid, he said.

Mr Haashi, who himself suffers from leprosy, said the only medecine they had been given recently had been ruined because the camp, in the town of Jilib, did not have a fridge.

Town fears

"We used to receive care from the international aid agencies under the auspices of the former administration but since it was toppled 1991, we were in a dreadful plight," he said.

Jilib town chairman Abdulaahi Moalin Hassan said that the entire region had been affected by a lack of rain, as well as clan-based conflicts.

He said that he was worried that the disease could spread to the rest of the town if the lepers left their camp due to the desperate conditions there.

Since the toppling of the regime of Siad Barre in 1991, Somalia has been torn apart by warlords who have fragmented the country and fought among themselves for territorial control.

Despite there now being a cure for leprosy, the World Health Organisation says it remains a problem in many developing countries and in 2002 there were over 600,000 new cases reported.

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