Angola: Leprosy mirroring the gap between law in books and law in practice

Luanda, 10 May, 2022.- “I welcome the commitment made by the government of Angola to actively engage with the international human rights system and to eliminate leprosy-related discrimination, but the authorities should double its efforts to achieve this goal”, says the UN expert, at the end of her official visit to Angola, from 28 April to 10 May 2022.

Alice Cruz, UN Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy (Hansen’s disease) and their family members, expressed her deep concern that many people are subject to delayed diagnosis, which can cause irreversible harm, reactions of Hansen’s disease and to the lack of provision of rehabilitation, reconstructive surgery, and assistive devices. Regretfully, the healthcare system in Angola is unprepared to tackle this problem. She urged the authorities to give priority in addressing the following challenges: data collection for informing evidenced-based policies, guaranteeing the right of access to information and enabling accountability; effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms; proper budget allocation at the national and subnational levels, with targets, indicators and benchmarks.

“Hansen’s disease data is not reliable. As the government recognizes, it is very likely that there is considerable underreporting in the country, which will increase transmission and disability, included in children. Furthermore, much more needs to be done to effectively prevent, monitor, hold accountable and remedy discrimination and human rights violations against persons affected by Hansen’s disease and their family members, as institutionalized and interpersonal discrimination endure. Still, the more important issue impacting the lives of persons affected by Hansen’s disease and their family members in Angola is substantive discrimination, which calls for redistribution policies and the enforcement of key social and economic rights, but also disability rights”, she added.

The UN expert urged the government, as part of the national human rights strategy, to develop a national plan for the implementation of the principles and guidelines, ensuring the full participation of persons affected by Hansen’s disease and their representative organizations in the design, implementation and evaluation of the entire process.

During her visit, Cruz met representatives of the government, including the relevant Ministries and the Ombudsman, as well as representatives of civil society organizations, academia, healthcare workers and experts. She visited Tuberculosis and Leprosy Dispensary, and several healthcare centers in Funda and Benguela. She listened to valuable testimonies by several persons affected by Hansen’s disease and their family members.

The Special Rapporteur will present her report on the visit to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2023.

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