India accounts for half of all leprosy cases: WHO
Though the number of leprosy cases has steadily declined worldwide, an estimated 2,00,000 cases continue to be reported every year, with India accounting for more than half
NEW DELHI: Around 2 lakh leprosy cases continue to be reported every year in the world with India accounting for more than half of them, the WHO said Friday, adding leprosy-related ‘discrimination, stigma and prejudice’ were the most powerful barriers in ending the disease.
WHO regional director for southeast Asia Poonam Khetrapal Singh also lauded India for repealing two legislations — one that discriminated against persons affected by leprosy and another which allowed leprosy as legitimate grounds for divorce. She said significant numbers are detected in the South-East Asia Region, Brazil, sub-Saharan Africa and the Pacific.
“Though the number of leprosy cases has steadily declined worldwide, an estimated 2,00,000 cases continue to be reported every year, with India accounting for more than half,” Singh said.
The official said as core public health interventions like active case-finding, improved treatment regimens and strengthened surveillance continue to drive-down leprosy's incidence and spread, the disease's bio-social components must be brought to the fore.
“As outlined in WHO’s Global Leprosy Strategy 2016-2020, policies that promote inclusion and aim at ending leprosy-related discrimination, stigma and prejudice should be front and centre of all leprosy programmes to achieve a leprosy-free region and world,” she said. Stressing on empowering people with leprosy to be ‘agents of social change’, Singh said this could include training them in advocacy and social mobilisation to enhance community buy-in and secure high-level support.