Social Exclusion Main Cause of Suffering for Lepers: Cleric in Burkina Faso

Flag of Burkina Faso

On the occasion of the 68thWorld Leprosy Day marked Sunday, January 31, a Missionary Cleric ministering in Burkina Faso has identified social exclusion as the main challenge facing people affected by leprosy in the West African nation.

"The main cause of suffering for people affected by leprosy is social exclusion: even when they manage to recover from this disease, social reintegration is often difficult,” Fr. Pierre-Marie Bulgo has been quoted in a Saturday, January 30 report .

Fr. Bulgo, a Camillian missionary, is in charge of the leper colony that Camillians oversee in the country’s capital, Ouagadougou.

Patients at the center “have no intention of returning to the family of origin, because they claim to have found a new family in which they do not feel stigmatized," Fr. Bulgo says.

Social exclusion "makes these people, more often than not, marginalized by fears and prejudices that have not yet been completely defeated," the Cleric says in the report by Agenzia Fides, the information service of Propaganda Fide.


According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Leprosy Strategy 2016–2020 launched in April 2016 with an aim of “accelerating towards a leprosy-free world,” stigma remains a key challenge to effectively fighting the illness, which is also known as Hansen’s disease.

Amid the stigma, the Camillian Missionaries have, for over 40 years, committed themselves to serving people living with leprosy in the landlocked nation, Fr. Bulgo adds in the January 30 report.

"The work of the Missionary Sisters of Africa and, subsequently, the charisma and fervor spirituality of Father Vincenzo Luise, our confreres have contributed to the manifestation of God's merciful love,” the Camillian Cleric says and adds, “In our reception center, we heal the wounds caused by skin lesions and dermatoses from which they suffer.”

At the leprosy center, Camillians provide the sick with food items, support their social reintegration and “recreate an environment where they can feel loved and supported,” Fr. Bulgo says.

As the world marked the World Day of Leprosy on January 31, Fr. Bulgo says, "It is important to aim for a cultural renewal that educates consciences and develops a culture of assistance, as also recommended by the Holy Father.”

More in Africa

“This day is an opportunity to renew the Church's commitment in the fight against exclusion and stigmatization, in combating tribalism, in preventing inter-communal conflicts, announcing the Gospel of fraternity and love,” he adds.

The World Leprosy Day was established in 1953 by French humanitarian Raoul Follereau in commemoration of the 30 January 1948 death of Mahatma Gandhi who had compassion for people afflicted with Leprosy.

In 2021, the Day, which seeks to increase the public awareness of the illness, was marked under the theme, “Beat Leprosy.”

Beating Leprosy “begins with the medical reality that leprosy is a curable disease; but beating leprosy involves more than a mere medical struggle,” the Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Peter Cardinal Turkson said in his message for the Day published January 31.

The Day “also seeks to eliminate the social stigma that accompanies this difficult illness and ultimately envisions the restoration of the human person in an integral way,” the Ghanaian-born Cardinal added.


“I offer my sincere respect and gratitude to all who dedicate themselves to ‘beat leprosy’ and offer healing and hope to those who suffer from Hansen’s disease,” Cardinal Turkson said.

He added, “They show us, in very practical ways, that leprosy is curable, that human encounter can eliminate stigma, and that mental well-being is an essential part of integral health.”

On his part, Pope Francis expressed his closeness to those who suffer from Leprosy, and encouraged “the missionaries, health care workers and volunteers who are engaged in their service.”

“The pandemic has confirmed how vital it is to protect the right to health for the most fragile people,” the Holy Father said after Angelus on Sunday, January 31 and expressed hope that “the leaders of nations will unite in their efforts to treat those suffering from Hansen’s disease and to ensure their social inclusion.”