We need to Stop Leprosy
Leprosy has been around for hundreds of years. It is curable. But if not detected at an early stage it can have devastating consequences for an infected person. These can include physical disabilities and life-long stigma and discrimination.
There have been world-wide efforts to eradicate leprosy over the last few decades. By 2005 it seemed that leprosy had been eliminated in most countries. But, in some places, Nepal and India included, the number of cases has gone up again in recent years.
The most vulnerable are the most likely to contract leprosy. Poverty, poor personal hygiene and inadequate sanitation, can be linked to the increasing number of leprosy cases. Children are more prone to the disease. This is because they come into contact with people with leprosy in their community, and cannot take care of their personal hygiene on their own. “It is a harsh reality that nine out of every 100 new cases diagnosed today are children,” said Dr Erwin Cooreman, Team Leader of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Global Leprosy Programme.
Lack of awareness and fear of discrimination are some of the reasons people don’t seek medical advice. And as long as they are living as an undetected case in their community, the risk of spreading the virus is increasing even further. In order to detect leprosy at an early stage, it is essential that medical staff at all levels, from rural health posts to regional hospitals, are properly trained and have the right equipment. Unfortunately, particularly in rural areas, this is not always the case, and this exacerbates the situation.
What can be done to stop leprosy?
It is for these reasons that WHO recommends national strategies that tackle leprosy on three levels. These are better training and equipment for medical staff to improve early detection, raising people’s awareness about leprosy, and proactively working with communities to prevent stigma and discrimination. People will then feel safe to seek medical advice as soon as they suspect an infection.
INF has a strong history in Nepal, and has been supporting the government in its efforts to eradicate the disease for good.
Please join us in the fight against leprosy.