The fight against leprosy in Mozambique


Leprosy in Mozambique may no longer be a broad public health problem, but the disease is far from eradicated. While incidence worldwide decreased between 2005 and 2015, Mozambique still recorded 1,335 cases.

One area— Murrupula District in Nampula Province—struggles daily with the disease, and Jaibo Rassul Mucufo is determined to uncover why.

‘Many believe that leprosy has been eradicated, but it hasn’t,’ says Jaibo, an assistant lecturer and researcher at the Faculty of Health Sciences, Lurio University. ‘Mozambique remains one of the most affected countries in the world and Murrupula District once recorded a high deformity rate of 22 per cent.’

Jaibo’s research is informed by the skills and knowledge gained through his Australia Awards Scholarship, Master of Development Studies (2016), University of Melbourne.

‘We’re researching neglected diseases and other major health issues that especially affect vulnerable and low-income citizens, including leprosy,’ he says. ‘Our research aims to support the health sector to find solutions. We’re making progress but don’t yet have the right solutions.’

During his studies, Jaibo learned how to structure reports, write funding and partnership proposals and formulate strong arguments, skills he relies on when applying for research funding. ‘There’s intense competition for funding,’ he says, ‘so our proposals have to be strong.’

Part of Jaibo’s research has included working with a team of international experts conducting primary research, including on Murrupula District, and publishing findings in the Journal of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine.

‘Murrupula District still struggles with leprosy for many reasons,’ he says. ‘A treatment site was once established there. Leprosy is a transmitted disease and those living close to that site were affected.’

Jaibo’s research points to other reasons leprosy continues to spread, including poverty, living conditions and natural conditions. The country’s tropical climate, for example, makes it easier for the bacillus that causes leprosy to reproduce. Waiting times for treatment and lack of professional health skills are other challenges.

Leprosy isn’t Jaibo’s only area of interest. He researches how to reduce maternal and neonatal mortality and has presented his findings at global conferences, including in Canada and in Australia.

Jaibo also works as a Community Linkage Officer, working with community groups through the Community Health Program and Innovating for Maternal and Child Health Project. Dealing with traditional birth attendants, traditional and religious authorities, and schools helps Jaibo gather data to promote primary health care and reduce mortality rates.

Photo Credit: Jaibo Rassul Mucufo

Feature from Alumni News Volume 28.

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