Tuesday, 10 June 2003

Zouan-Hounien (Fides Service) – Capuchin Friars in Ivory Coast continue to work to organise monastery turned hospital centre where they assist thousands of people affected by Buruli tropical skin disease which devours the skin and flesh often reaching the bone. Unfortunately their hospital at Zouan-Hounien which had two well equipped operating theatres, a number of wards, a refectory and a medication room, as well as many other services, was totally destroyed by the present civil war raging in the country.
Because of the war the Capuchins had to leave their mission and move with more than 100 child patients to Angre, some 800 km away on the outskirts of the capital, taking shelter in a monastery which they have turned into a hospital. The Capuchin ‘hospital’ treats hundreds of people children and adults every day who cannot go to state structures because they are non existent. There are 40 resident patients, some are very serious cases: children up to sixteen years of age, adults come for day treatment and other bedridden patients whom the Sister treat in their homes. Everyone work very hard: nurses, doctors, sisters priests and volunteers. The only way to treat Buruli is to cut away the infected tissue. This is followed by long and painful therapy of daily washing and medication combined with antibiotics. With skin grafts gradually the wounds heal although often leaving deep scars, deformation and even ankylosis.
Hoping to increase the number of cured patients, Father Marcantonio Pirovano, director of the Centre tells Fides Service that he is working on a concrete thesis to confirm the validity of an experimental treatment with clay. It has been seen that clay treatment is painless, it cleanses the wounds and above all it eliminates the risk of disability. The missionary says that if correctly explained this treatment could be applied in many cases and it is less costly. (AP) (Fides Service 10/6/2003 EM lines Words: 358)

Caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium ulcerans, it is considered the third most common mycobacterial infection of humans after tuberculosis and leprosy. It starts as painless swelling in the skin and causes severely deforming ulcers. Complications include loss of organs such as the eye and breast; amputation of limbs and other permanent disabilities. Most commonly afflicts limbs. Information on the disease is generally scarce and the mode (s) of transmission not entirely known. Most patients are children and women who live in rural areas near rivers or wetlands. Treatment with antibiotics has been unsuccessful to date. Current treatment is surgical excision requiring long hospitalisations and very expensive for those most afflicted. Buruli ulcer is endemic in at least 32 countries in Africa, Western Pacific, Asia and South America. In Ivory Coast it is estimated that at least 10,000 people are affected by the Buruli ulcer. (Fides Service 10/6/2003)