Though easily treatable at all the stages, Leprosy affected still faces discrimination. It was one of the most feared and misunderstood disease in India. Prevailing myths and lack of knowledge about the disease is the root cause for social stigma attached to it. The Lepers Act Leprosy affected persons and their families, they are often denied their fundamental human rights. Today, we have the best medical facilities to cure and eradicate the disease, but the stigma prevailing is the biggest obstacles in our efforts to eliminate leprosy.
What should you know about Leprosy?
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease that mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, respiratory tract, and the eyes. It’s asymptomatic for 5 to 20 years. It’s a non-contagious, non-hereditary and entirely curable disease. Leprosy affected doesn’t feel pain, sensation. Further loss of parts of extremities which leads to disabling injuries. Though early detection, treatment on time help them to live independently. It’s easily treatable at all the stages.
Facts about Leprosy:
- According to the World Health Organization (WHO), It’s the World’s oldest diseases, and India accounts for 60% of the annual new cases.
- In 2005, India announced the elimination of leprosy as a public health concern via the National Leprosy Eradication Programme. However, new cases (126164) detected during 2017-18.
- Chhattisgarh and Dadra & Nagar Haveli never attain the status of elimination.
- During 2017-18, 32,714 cases detected in leprosy Case Detection Campaign.
The Stigma and Misconceptions that led to Discrimination.
Leprosy is considered as an incurable, highly deforming disease. This myth leads to destitution and eventually to death because leprosy patient gets neglected and undergo starvation. The stigma and misconceptions associated with this disease delay the diagnosis and treatment. The Key challenges are:
- Problems like social stigma, lack of awareness, misconceptions are hurdles in eradicating the disease.
- The common misconception in leprosy is It’s a contagious, hereditary and non-curable disease.
- The Lepers Act of 1898 repealed two years ago.
- The patient is examined in poor light, hence the disease is not easily detected.
- Increased resource towards leprosy control is essential.
What actions have taken so far?
- The parliament passed an amendment in various laws to remove discrimination against leprosy patients,
- The Govt is planning to pass Bill to eliminate discrimination against persons affected by leprosy.
- The government treats leprosy patients for free.
Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation
Cases like Shankari who was diagnosed with leprosy when she was studying at school, but early diagnosis followed by timely treatment and living a healthy life. And NGOlike Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation provides a nursing scholarship to her girl child.
Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation fights stigma and provides a dignified life to leprosy patients and their families. They are running programmes like Livelihood, Education, Advocacy & Awareness to mainstreams leprosy patients and their families.
They are Providing vocational training and higher education to help them self employed. Help leprosy patients to access government welfare schemes. Their motto is to raise awareness about leprosy among all sections of society to fight the stigma. They have supported the Livelihood of more than 2200 leprosy-affected people and trained more than 585 youth in entry-level employable skills. They Indirectly helped more than 27,400 leprosy affected family members.
There is the need to restore dignity and End Stigma and Discrimination against Leprosy. NGO like SILF is doing inspiring work to root out this stigma from our society. While the government is securing their fundamental rights, society has an even more significant role to play. The discrimination can end by law, but stigma requires more efforts to eliminate. And only awareness and education regarding this disease among youth can help.
The Global Appeal
The Global Appeal is an essential initiative to End Discrimination against Leprosy at the global level. It aimed at spreading awareness in society and provide the right knowledge about leprosy. Their campaign includes – Leprosy is a curable disease, free treatment available and that discrimination is unjustifiable.
The global fight against leprosy is initiated by Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for leprosy, Japan’s Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by leprosy. He is also patron S-ILF. For, Mr. Sasakawa leprosy is his mission, and he works to bridge the gap between people affected by Leprosy and system. His particular focus is on places where the disease is endemic.
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