Monday, May 20, 2024

India accounts for 57% of leprosy cases globally

In the light of the World Leprosy Day, industry veterans gathered at an event for the launch of the book – Dr S K Noordeen: Architect of the Global Leprosy Elimination Program. The book has been authored by Dr Derek Lobo, Member, Board of Trustees, Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF). Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Former Chief Scientist, World Health Organisation (WHO) was the chief guest at the event.

Sharing his thoughts on the book authored by him, Dr Derek Lobo said, ‘Dr.SK Noordeen was a very humble person, with a constant focus towards eliminating leprosy. Over the years he worked tirelessly towards the cause and received numerous achievements but never thought of writing about it. After his demise, he decided to write the book on his story as a gesture towards him.’

The event, hosted by Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF), also provided a platform to discuss the current state of the persons affected by leprosy around the world. Dr. Lobo further added, ‘India accounts 57% of leprosy cases globally where 121 countries account for 40% of cases. WHO is working tremendously to eliminate leprosy, in fact 31 countries have recorded 0 leprosy cases whereas 30 countries recorded less than 10 cases nationally. Only Brazil, India & Indonesia are such countries which have recorded more than 10000 cases of leprosy. ‘

In a conversation with Mr Tarun Das, Chairman, S-ILF regarding the changing scenario in the world owing to the awareness around the disease, Dr. S Swaminathan said, ‘There was a quote and I would paraphrase it a little -Never doubt a small group which can change the world. I say it can be a single man who can do it all with sheer commitment, perseverance & dedication. WHO is grateful that Dr. Noordeen was there at the right time to formulate the plan to work towards eliminating leprosy. One needs to learn the characteristics of the disease to eliminate it. One of the challenges in elimination of the disease is that awareness goes down and along with the funding & research in domino effect. It is very difficult for the individual who goes through the infection, and it gets worse because of the stigma. Though we must accept the fact that leprosy is not infectious, there is no risk, people infected with
leprosy can live a proactive life’.

‘Diagnosis of leprosy is another challenge mostly caused by stigma. Early detection, raising awareness, and upskilling the healthcare workers to test through modern methods is something WHO and countries affected by leprosy are working on. With the continuous growth in clinical trials and research developments, we need foundations like S-ILF that can help in advocacy and support the individuals who are infected. I would like to thank Sasakawa Foundation for its commitment, She further added.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 200,000 new cases were being reported annually. Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy but left untreated can result in permanent disability. An estimated 3 to 4 million people are thought to be living with some form of disability as a result of leprosy. Although completely curable, many myths and misunderstandings surround the disease. In various parts of the world, patients, those who have been treated and cured, and even their family members continue to be stigmatized. The discrimination they face limits their opportunities for education, employment and full
participation in society.

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