My name is Munagala Lakshmi, I am aged 65 and from the Pedana municipality in Andhra Pradesh, India.
Three years ago, I lost my son due to liver cancer. He left behind a wife and two children. My husband and I supported our grandchildren during this difficult time and they themselves are now married.
My husband used to work at a rice mill and later as a laundry worker to help support our whole family. Since my husband is affected by leprosy and his left hand is disabled, he has very limited ability to use his left hand.
With the support of Lepra, my husband and I now have access to government financial support. This is now our only source of income for us and we are dependent on this to pay our monthly rent, food and essentials. I have been affected by lymphatic filariasis (LF) on my right foot for over 20 years, and I have spent much of our savings on my treatment. I used to wash clothes at nearby houses and currently, I am unable to work regularly due to periods of poor health.
Over the last four years, I have regularly attended the community groups organised by Lepra. They demonstrate the self-care practices which I follow at home and also provide bandages, custom-made protective footwear and self-care kits. By attending these groups regularly, my leg is much better and I no longer have any acute attacks of LF.
We found the pandemic a particularly challenging time, but as we were receiving the pensions from government, we managed. My husband and I were both afraid as our immune systems are weak and we are more vulnerable to infection. By God’s grace, to date, we have managed to avoid becoming ill with COVID.
We were happy knowing that the COVID-19 vaccination means that we can be protected from the disease. But, we were also worried that the vaccination might have side effects. We both gathered some courage and visited our nearest vaccination centre. There was a huge crowd and given our health conditions, it was not possible for us to get vaccinated there.
After a few days, a member of Lepra staff informed us about the vaccination programme and they also educated our community members that vaccination is safe as well as important. They scheduled vaccinations for us at the nearest health centre. The Lepra staff came and took us to the centre, it was very well planned and without any hassle. Firstly, they registered our names as we provided the necessary documentation and we were given a token for our turn. Without any busy crowds, they called us one by one and the process was very smooth. We were finally vaccinated and they informed us of the necessary precautions to be taken after the vaccination. We did not have any side effects and we were relieved that we are now safe from COVID-19.
We would like to thank Lepra for not only supporting us with leprosy and lymphatic filariasis, but also for taking such care in vaccinating us. Once again, thanks to everyone who helped us with our COVID-19 vaccination.