A nationwide Sparsh Leprosy Awareness Campaign will be launched on January 30, which is also marked as Anti-Leprosy Day.
Dr Anil Kumar, Deputy Director General, Central Leprosy Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, said as many as 32,000 confirmed hidden cases of leprosy were detected across 163 districts in 20 states during the door-to-door surveys held last year.
Data from nine districts of Bihar is yet to be updated, he added.
Early detection of all cases in a community and completion of prescribed treatment, using multi-drug treatment, are the basic tenets of Enhanced Global Strategy for Further Reducing Disease Burden Due to Leprosy. As part of this campaign, Gram Sabhas will be organised in coordination with allied sector of health department/ ministries — Panchayati Raj Institutions, Rural Development, Urban Development, Women and Child Development and Social Justice and Empowerment, among others.
The strategy emphasises the need to sustain expertise and increase the number of skilled leprosy staff, improve the participation of affected persons and reduce visible deformities — otherwise called Grade 2 Disabilities (G2D), said Kumar.
We also focus on removing the stigma associated with the disease, he added.
The thrust of this campaign is to promote community participation in diagnosis and treatment of leprosy in its early stages, from centralised top-down delivery-driven approach to decentralised community-based demand-driven approach.
The plan is to empower local communities to take over the responsibility of sensitising people to not stigmatise and discriminate against those affected and to spread awareness about the disease to help in early diagnosis and treatment.
Leprosy affected 2,12,000 more people globally in 2015. Of them 60 per cent were in India. The other high-burden countries were Brazil and Indonesia. Of the new cases, 8.9 per cent were children and 6.7 per cent presented with visible deformities. Despite being eliminated globally as a public health problem in 2000, leprosy continues to mar the lives of people, and impacts families and communities.
Though the present numbers are a fraction of what was reported a decade ago, they are still unacceptable, as an effective treatment for leprosy — multidrug therapy, or MDT — has been available since the 1980s, said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South East Asia.
World Leprosy Day, observed on the last Sunday of January, focuses on the target of zero cases of leprosy-related disabilities in children. Experts said disabilities do not occur overnight, but happen after a prolonged period of undiagnosed disease. Early detection is the key to achieve this target, alongside scaling up interventions to prevent leprosy transmission.