By REDRESS Programme Management Team
On World NTD and World Leprosy Day we remember and celebrate the life of John Brimah
John Saah Brimah played a pivotal role in the Reducing the Burden of Severe Stigmatising Skin Disease in Liberia and through the (REDRESS) project. He was the REDRESS co-investigator and patient advocate and was also head of the REDRESS Community Advisory Board. John sadly passed on 9 July 2021 at the Ganta Hospital, where he worked, after a brief illness. His funeral took place on 17 July 2021.
John’s life was committed to serving people affected by severe stigmatizing diseases, including Leprosy. For the past fifteen years, John has been serving as the Officer-in-Charge (Clinical Director) of the Ganta Rehabilitation Center, a facility recognized by the Liberian Ministry of Health as the country’s centre of excellence in neglected tropical diseases management. John had Leprosy at a young age and experienced severe forms of stigma and discrimination throughout his childhood. He was cured of leprosy but lived a lifetime with the disabling effects of the disease and the impacts of separation from his family and community. You can hear directly from John about his experiences here.
John pursued one overarching desire – to help ensure others with leprosy live with dignity and access quality care and not experience the pain, stigma and discrimination he did. Determined to protect others from the disease and to support those already affected, he pursued a lifetime career of service to fighting Leprosy and helping people affected by stigma and discrimination. John was a licensed nurse and had impressive credentials in the prevention, diagnosis and management of severe stigmatizing skin diseases (SSSDs). In the words of Zeela Zaizay, REDRESS, Country Manager: “He was a servant-leader and a hero who we will miss so dearly.”
30th January 2022 marks both World Leprosy day and World NTD Day and we remember, acknowledge and thank John for his vital work and his inspiring legacy. The focus of World Leprosy Day United for Dignity embodies John’s legacy; this includes lifting the voices of and honouring the experiences of people who have experienced leprosy and John was a great advocate, bravely and clearly sharing his experiences at meetings at all different levels of the Liberian health system. He worked to address mental wellbeing challenges due to stigma, discrimination and isolation and ensured people who experience leprosy have the right to a dignified life free from disease-related stigma and discrimination.
The third, World NTD Day, 2022 “Together, We Can Combat NTDs” serves as a catalyst to translate awareness into action, secure increased resources for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), and crucially facilitate political leadership and ownership of NTD programmes from affected countries. In 2021, 65 remarkable landmarks representing 26 nations in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North and South America lit up in support of putting an end to debilitating and preventable diseases. John’s legacy has been to light up all of our lives and make the world a better place. He has demonstrated the importance and impact of affected people’s and health care providers’ voices and perspectives in the fight against NTDs.
Ensuring the views of the most marginalised shape the direction of REDRESS is essential to our values around person-centred approaches and key to our community engagement approaches. Within REDRESS when we think about person-centred approaches, we think of John Saah Brimah our patient advocate and REDRESS co-investigator, all that he stood for and all that he brought both personally and professionally. John played a pivotal and irreplaceable role within REDRESS and his community, ensuring the presence of a person affected during all county and national dissemination meetings, and during the validation and resource planning meetings. He is dearly missed by us all and his legacy lives on in all whose lives he touched.
Rest in Peace John.