World Leprosy Day is observed on the last Sunday of January. The day was chosen by French humanitarian Raoul Follereau in 1953 to coincide with the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s death which happened on the last Sunday of January 1948.
Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease and is a chronic granulomatous disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium Leprae. The disease is completely curable if diagnosed early, late presentations are associated with complications. If left untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes. Not only does it affect their limbs, the disease is riddled with social stigma, with some calling it a “bad karma” disease.
World Leprosy Day
World Leprosy Day raises awareness of a disease that many people believe to be extinct. However, it’s far from extinct. India has the highest number of leprosy cases in the world. Declaring the disease eliminated back in 2005 was counterproductive for the Indian government. In fact, India accounts for 60% of the global count of new leprosy cases. The Central Leprosy Division, under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW), revealed that 13,485 new cases were detected in 2017.
In a revamped effort to reduce cases, the government recently announced a slew of measures to widen population screening and carry out regular surveillance of the disease. The MoHFW released operational guidelines in December 2020 that prescribe annual or bi-annual screening instead of occasional campaign drives. Screening has been proposed once a year in areas with prevalence rates lower than one per 10,000 population and twice a year in areas with higher rates. The guidelines propose financial incentives for government health workers to screen communities.
Here are the latest developments:
Tata Motors CSR initiative in Jharkhand (Singbhum)
A nearly four-decade initiative by Tata Motors and social outfit Nav Jagrat Manav Samaj in Jharkhand’s Singbhum region towards early detection and treatment of leprosy has led to a significant reduction in the incidence of cases. Dr Sanjay Srivastava, chief of medicine, Tata Motors Hospital, and a governing committee member of the Samaj, said that their efforts had brought down the incidence of leprosy cases in Singbhum from 21 out of 1,000 in 1991 to only 0.3 out of 1,000 in 2017-18.
The Samaj was established in August 1981 with a clear vision to support the cause of leprosy prevention, control and rehabilitation. Its major projects include conducting a Leprosy Case Detection Campaign for identification of new cases, running an old-age home for leprosy patients, and supporting the rehabilitative measures for patients residing at various leprosy ashrams in Jamshedpur. Tata Motors also provides free food and medicine to the patients.
Door-to-door Survey in Maharashtra
The Maharashtra Government took a cue from house-to-house survey for COVID-19, and used a similar strategy for detecting patients with tuberculosis and leprosy infections. A joint tuberculosis and leprosy search campaign in all districts and municipal areas was implemented from December 1 to 31. Dr Ramji Adkekar, joint director of TB and Leprosy, Maharashtra, said they were able to detect 5,700 new cases of leprosy during a month-long campaign in December 2020. The mission to eradicate leprosy continues across India.
Jobs for Colony Inmates
The Kalyan Dombivali Municipal Corporation (KDMC) will explore the possibility of giving jobs to inmates of the Hanuman Nagar Leprosy Colony, according to PTI. KDMC commissioner Vijay Suryavanshi said the inmates would be taught skills, and women will be given sewing machines. He added that a hospital being built in the colony should be ready in three months.
Flipchart for ASHA Workers in 6 States
To promote early detection and treatment of leprosy in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal, WHO India will launch a short online video to teach ASHA workers how to effectively use a flipchart. Yohei Sasakawa, the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative, National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) and WHO India jointly launched a pictorial flipchart on leprosy for Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs).
Karnataka Launches Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign
The Department of Health and Family Welfare in Karnataka has launched the Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign 2021. SLAC is a fortnight-long programme from January 30 to February 13, 2021. The programme was inaugurated at the Directorate of Health and Family Welfare Services, Arogya Soudha, Magadi Road in Bengaluru.
The thrust of this Campaign is to promote community participation to reorient the delivery of the service of diagnosis and treatment of leprosy in its early stages; from the centralized top-down delivery driven approach to decentralized community based demand-driven approach. This is in order to empower the PRIs (Panchayati Raj Institution) and local communities to take over the responsibility of sensitizing and motivating people for early self-reporting for diagnosis and treatment.
SLAC Campaigns in all Districts of Kashmir
There were awareness campaigns, rallies and seminars across all the districts of Kashmir on the eve of World Leprosy Day to raise awareness among masses about the curable nature of Hansen’s disease.
At Budgam, The Department of Health organized an awareness programme camp on SPARSH Leprosy at New Conference Hall Budgam. Later, the Chief Guest distributed woollen clothes and first aid kits among leprosy patients. At Ganderbal, the Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, Shafqat Iqbal who is also the chairman of District Leprosy Coordination Committee Ganderbal launched the Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign (SLAC), 2021 at Town Hall on Saturday. Later, a rally was taken from Town Hall Ganderbal to CMO office for spreading awareness about leprosy among the people.
In Pulwama, District Leprosy Society organized a Leprosy awareness seminar at DC office Complex on January 30. The day-long programme was inaugurated by Additional District Development Commissioner (ADDC) Shabir Ahmad Raina in presence of CMO Pulwama, Programme Officer, ICDS. The CMO informed that a series of awareness programmes will be held in the district to provide medical assistance.
At Shopian, an awareness campaign was launched across the district with the main function being organised at Mini Secretariat, Arhama under the Chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner (DC) Shopian, SB Suse. At Kulgam, the Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign was inaugurated on the eve of World Leprosy Day by Deputy Commissioner (DC) Kulgam, Showkat Aijaz Bhat at Mini-Secretariat. Later, free medicines, blankets and other items were distributed among the RFT patients.