Will leprosy be frozen? The WHO (World Health Organization) confirms that the efforts to combat this skin disease in the last 20 years have shown great promise but one can’t be complacent at this stage say the experts. It may come back if we give up our guard.
WHO targets Leprosy
Our efforts made towards targeting the deadly leprosy may be in vain if we show a slack in the endeavors at this stage said the WHO officials in Bangkok during the International leprosy summit. The doctors had been administering a multi-drug therapy since the 1980’s that has been a boon for almost 16 million people who had been taken in by leprosy in the last 2 decades.
What about the countries where leprosy is endemic? In these counties fresh cases of leprosy have shown up or the present cases are still remaining static, this is a warning sign and works against the eradication of leprosy. Organized by WHO and the Nippon Foundation, the summit was held for 3 days. Global experts on the disease and health ministers from about 8 countries had discussions about the present leprosy status and chalked out some effective strategies to bring the disease under control and free the world from this dismal disease.
It will come as a shock to you but ever two minutes a fresh case of leprosy is unearthed worldwide and the worst is that out of 10 leprosy cases detected about 7 are children.
Source of embarrassment
This highly communicable disease is a great source of embarrassment for the patient as they stay cloaked in humiliation because of the stigma attached to the disease. This happens because there is a lack of proper information and knowledge regarding the subject. Even the patients who are now hale and hearty and cured fully of the disease are spurned and rejected by the people.
Samlee Plianbangchang, regional director, WHO South-East Asia states “Our challenge is to sustain the quality of leprosy services and to ensure that all persons affected by leprosy, wherever they live, have an equal opportunity to be diagnosed early and treated by competent health workers.”
He further states “While we have covered a lot of ground in reducing the disease burden in all endemic countries, there is no room for complacency. The final battle against leprosy is yet to be won.”
The remaining challenge of getting permanently rid of leprosy is very tough and complex says Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination. Sasakawa states that “The target populations are living in difficult-to-reach areas such as urban slums, border areas and ethnic minority areas. Moreover, available resources in each country have declined.”
The WHO has been distributing the multi-drug therapy free of cost globally since 1995 and the numbers of the endemic countries have reduced to less than 20 now, whereas the 1985 data shows that they were about 122. Nearly 232,850 new cases have come up in 2012 and nearly 94% of these are from the endemic pockets existing in Africa and South East Asia.