Far from free of leprosy

India reported an average increase of five to seven percent in the detection of new cases annually over the last five years

July 30, 2014 04:43 pm | Updated 04:43 pm IST - New Delhi:

A girl feeds her leprosy-affected grandmother at a leper colony in New Delhi.

A girl feeds her leprosy-affected grandmother at a leper colony in New Delhi.

India’s leprosy elimination programme has not been “successful” and it will take at least 40 years to completely eliminate the disease from the country, an international expert has said.

Did you know? * According to NLEP, more than 1 lakh new cases of leprosy are detected in India every year. * Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of new leprosy cases in 2013-14, followed by Maharastra, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh. * Currently India has 850 colonies, where people with leprosy are living marginalised from society.

In 2005, WHO had declared that India had eliminated leprosy. However, India reported an average increase of five to seven percent in the detection of new cases annually over the last five years, with an increased proportion of cases seen among children. According to the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) of the union health ministry, 1,27,595 new cases of leprosy are detected in India every year.

Rene Staeheli, director, International Leprosy Eradication Programme (ILEP), also said human rights of those affected living in lepers colonies are violated as they are denied jobs and health facilities.

“India should realise that leprosy elimination as a public health programme has not been a success as the number of transmission has increased,” Staeheli told IANS in an interview here.

“India has a high burden of leprosy patients in the interior areas of the economically backward states, where the medication for leprosy has not been extended yet. It may be due to various reasons,” said the head of the global organisation that works to eradicate leprosy in the world.

“First of all, it is important to extend the medication for leprosy in those areas. Before that eradication of the disease is not possible. At least it will take another 40 years to eliminate the disease,” Staeheli added.

According to the World Health Organisation, India accounts for 58 per cent of the new leprosy cases in the world. Leprosy is an infectious disease that causes severe disfiguring of the skin and leads to nerve damage in the arms and legs. It is still endemic in a number of countries.

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