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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

INTERVIEW: Supporting Economic Independence

Chamada Abibo is working to improve life for people affected by leprosy in Mozambique.

Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa visits an ALEMO agricultural project in Nampula Province in 2005.
Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa visits an ALEMO agricultural project in Nampula Province in 2005.

Chamada Abibo is General Director of ALEMO, an organization of people affected by leprosy in Mozambique. He first noticed symptoms of the disease at the age of 24, when the country was going through the turmoil of civil war, but he wasn't correctly diagnosed for another three years. Receiving treatment was extremely difficult. Every two months he had to cycle 150 kilometers to a hospital in Pemba, the capital of Cabo Delgado province, for his medication.

To earn a living, he worked as a farmer for seven years, before becoming a tree-cutter. Because of the deformity in his hands, the job was difficult for him and put him at risk of further injury. After six months, he was able to switch to an administrative position better suited to his condition. With friends, he started ALEMO in 2000. Today the organization consists of 46 groups, operating in four of Mozambique's 11 provinces - Cabo Delgado, Zambezia, Nampula, and Manica.

How did ALEMO begin?

ALEMO was established in 2000 with 13 members. It grew out of ADEMO, the Mozambican association of disabled people started in 1989.

What are ALEMO's main activities?

ALEMO supports people affected by leprosy to become economically independent. We organize small groups of people affected by the disease, and help them to engage in livelihood projects such as grinding maize, sewing, basket making, pottery and raising animals. There are also agricultural projects - growing maize, onions, tomatoes and many other crops. In addition, ALEMO emphasizes capacity building, where people go to other groups to train members who need more information and support.

Since the organization grew out of ADEMO, do you have a particular focus on persons with disabilities?

ALEMO supports the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. If a person just sits around and does nothing because he or she has a disability, I believe their condition can get worse. It is important to find something they can do.

"People try to find what work they can with their abilities."

How easy is it for people affected by leprosy in Mozambique to find work?

People try to find what work they can with their abilities. If a person can hold a broom, he or she might get a job as a cleaner. But given Mozambique's economic situation, there is a lack of employment opportunities in general, while disability caused by the disease is also a factor in the low levels of employment among people affected by leprosy. In urban areas, people often have to beg for a living.

What are your plans for ALEMO?

I would like to expand our activities nationwide. In particular, I want to tackle the issue of social stigma. I want to bring awareness to the public, work with the government, provide access to employment, and improve the lives of people affected by leprosy overall.


Chamada Abibo

INTERVIEWEE: Chamada Abibo

Chamada Abibo is General Director of ALEMO (Mozambique Assocation of Persons with Leprosy)