The Centre has asked the States to draw up action plans to overcome the shortage of manpower in dealing with leprosy, a highly stigmatised and debilitating disease. The plans are to be reflected in the project implementation plans (PIPs) for 2010-11.

Only nine States — Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal — have dedicated Leprosy Officers in place. The situation at the district-level is even worse, with 116 posts lying vacant as against the sanctioned 311 posts in 523 districts in 20 States.

The States have also been asked to create additional posts of District Leprosy Officers. As on March 31, 2009, a total of 0.86 lakh cases of leprosy were recorded, indicating a Prevalence Rate (PR) of 0.72 per 10,000 people and 1.34 lakh new cases were detected during 2008-09, which makes the Annual New Case Detection Rate (ANCDR) 11.19 per 100,000 people, a slight reduction from the previous year’s ANCDR (11.70 per 100,000 people).

Ninety districts with more than 500 new cases during the year were selected as high priority areas and the States and Union Territories were advised to take specific measures after situational analysis.

Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have been advised to look into the high PR — over 5 per 10,000 — observed in 18 blocks in these States.

Seeking to achieve a target of ANCDR less than 10 per 100,000, records indicate that of the 5,902 blocks only 3,334 blocks have ANCDR of less than 10 per 100,000, while in as many as 468 blocks the figure is more than 30 per 100,000.

These blocks deserve priority attention and intense supervision, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare says. It has asked State Level Officers to review the block-level situation during the District Level Officers’ meeting and indicate the line of action.

Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli remain with PR between 1 and 2.5 per 10,000. The two States and Union Territories, with 10.4 per cent of the country’s population, contribute 18.9 per cent of the country’s recorded case-load and 21 per cent of the new cases detected during 2008-09. As many as 32 States and Union Territories have achieved the level of elimination (where PR is less than 1 case per 10,000).

Directing the States to carry out surveys to record the actual number of colonies of leprosy patients and their inhabitants, the Centre has also involved the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) in detection and treatment of cases by giving them monetary incentives.

Since the National Rural Health Mission training module for ASHAs does not include leprosy, a half-day training is being conducted by the States as per a special module prepared by the Centre. So far, 41,565 ASHAs have been trained for leprosy-related work.

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