Poem for the Lepers of Yemen

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According to a report from Aljazeera, 367 people were diagnosed with leprosy in 2016. Ostracized by their families, many of them make their way to the leper colony in Taiz to receive medical attention. But the war has hampered efforts of aid agencies, who struggle to distribute aid and provide adequate medical help. Among the people the Aljazeera reporters spoke to was 65-year-old Museed al-Firasi, who says: “I have nothing.” This is my poem for the lepers of Yemen.

I don’t know what your suffering is like, all I know is that we don’t care, at least not enough.

You tell me that you have to walk for miles to get clean water, while I’m just after throwing out bottled water, just because it’s one day old.

You tell me that no one wants you, and I know that is true.

I don’t know what that feels like, to be sick and abandoned by loved ones. All the while, the war destroys your home. You’re right, you have nothing. But who cares? I just about care enough to write to you.

So there you are, no home, no family, no prospect of even a half-decent future. At least the staff and medical professionals working in Taiz care.

How do you cope? How do you find the strength to go and get water? How can you have faith in anyone, anything?

I don’t know what your suffering is like, all I know is that I don’t seem to care, at least not enough.

To say my heart goes out to you seems silly and only designed to ease my conscience. Still, it does try and reach you, and I wonder what your life could have been like if you had been born away from war and leprosy. But you didn’t.

Leprosy

After seeing your story, I looked up some facts about leprosy, though it’s hard to get away from the ingrained, idiot-ideas about this illness. According to the World Health Organisation, leprosy is treatable with antibiotics today and is caused by bacillus. But did you know it’s one of the least infectious diseases? Did you know that all the ancient humbug associated with leprosy that continues to ostracize sufferers is all nonsense? Did you know it’s just a bacillus like any other? I hope so, or maybe you’d be better off, not knowing.

I don’t know what your suffering is like, all I know is that I don’t seem to care, at least not enough.

Still, I’d like to know. Did you just get lesions on your skin? Or did the leprosy take parts of you? Disfigure you? Did you lose your feeling in your hands and feet? Did your hands and feet stop moving? I guess if you can still make your way to the well, the doctors must have stopped your leprosy before it destroyed your power of movement.

I don’t know what your suffering is like, all I know is that I don’t seem to care, at least not enough.

And what about your heart and soul? Losing family and friends? Being excluded, shunned, and ostracized? How do you cope? How do you find the strength to go and get water? How can you have faith in anyone, anything?

Do You Rage?

Do you rage against your God in disbelief at how suffering has all but destroyed your life? Do you still believe, hope, pray?

Do you rage against people like me who seem to care very little? Do you think of our inaction as inhumane? Callous? Selfish? Do you despair that only a handful of people have come to your aid, while the majority looks the other way?

Do you have peace within your heart, mind, soul Рanywhere? How do you cope? How do you find the strength to go and get water? How can you have faith in anyone, anything?

Empty-Handed

My shame is of little use to you, my words and prayers perhaps a little. No doubt, the most useful thing for me to do for you is to call on people to support those who work in Taiz.

Still, my heart goes out to you as I picture you walking daily to collect the little water you can get.

Aid Agencies Taiz, Yemen

If you’d like to make a donation, please use the following links:

Save the Children

DAHW

If you know of other organizations working in the area, please leave a comment and link.

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