4 states still struggling with leprosy

Even as India has achieved the elimination target for leprosy, four states — West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh — are still struggling to tackle the disease that leaves people deformed and has social stigma attached to it.

 4 states still struggling with leprosyAccording to the health ministry, India achieved the elimination target by reducing the number of cases to below one for every 10,000 population in 2005 itself, but five years later, the four states are still struggling to match the cut-off.

“India has done a good job but four states are yet to achieve the target. I am working for leprosy-affected people and will not feel relieved until these states in eastern India achieve the goal,” said Yohei Sasakawa, the World Health Organisation (WHO) goodwill ambassador on leprosy.

“Last week, I had gone to Bihar to evaluate the situation. I met the health minister of Bihar and he was very optimistic about eliminating the disease,” said Sasakawa, who has been working for over 20 years for the betterment of leprosy-affected people.

Till the end of January 2010, Chhattisgarh had 2.33 leprosy patients for every 10,000 population and Bihar had 1.21 patients in the same sample size. It was 1.09 for Jharkhand and 1.01 for West Bengal.

In terms of absolute numbers, around 91,810 people are currently suffering from the disease across India. While Bihar has 12,246 affected people, West Bengal is home to 9,193 such patients. In Chhattisgarh, the figure is 5,528 and in Jharkhand there are 3,466 people affected with leprosy.

Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by a bacteria. Left untreated, it can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. It can also affect the respiratory system.

Sasakawa said Bihar is making progress but “what I found is that there is a bit of complacency. Quite a number of staff positions assigned with fighting leprosy are lying vacant”.

Indranath Banerjee, national professional officer, WHO India, said the country did not roll out the leprosy drug at one go across the country, which is why there was a regional imbalance in eliminating the disease.

“While the multi-drug therapy (MDT) was rolled out in the southern states in the mid-1980s, Bihar and all other states in the region got their share nearly a decade after,” Banerjee told IANS.

Sasakawa said: “Apart from all medical issues, loss of dignity and human rights violation is a concern for all leprosy-affected people. Now we have formed a national forum of such people living in 700 colonies across the country. There is also a plan to start micro-finance to help them sustain their life and live a life of dignity.”

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: