Despite India being declared "leprosy-free" in 2005, the country still accounts for over half (almost 60 per cent) of the world's new leprosy patients.
Bihar, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Jharkhand contributed 76 per cent of the new leprosy cases, data by National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) shows.
According to World Health Organization (WHO), 114,451 new leprosy cases were detected in the country in 2019-20 which accounted for 80 per cent of the cases of southeast Asian countries.
Based on the reports from all the states and UTs 2020-21, National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) said that a total of 65,147 new cases of leprosy were detected taking Annual new case detection to 4.56 per 100,000 population as against 1,14,451 cases in 2019-20.
According to the same data, a total of 57,672 leprosy cases are on record as of April 1, 2021. A total of 3,753 child cases were recorded, taking the child case rate to 5.76 per cent. Leprosy has often been reported as one of the most stigmatized diseases, however, if detected on time, most of the cases can be cured between 6 to 12 months.
As per NLEP, the number of leprosy cases in India has witnessed a significant decline.
After the 2005 declaration of elimination, most of the leprosy programs were dismantled and resources were redirected to more pressing health priorities.
Dr S Ananth Reddy Chief Administrator & Chief Medical Officer, Sivananda Rehabilitation Home said, "The announcement in 2005 halted the progress for a while and led to the disease spreading again. The pandemic has only aggravated the situation. There was re-allocation of resources and today, we observe that very few healthcare professionals in the country can perform surgeries on leprosy patients. There is an urgent need to reignite our fight against leprosy."
Dr. Joydeepa Darlong, Head of Knowledge Management, The Leprosy Mission Trust, India mentioned, "India has a high burden of leprosy cases and most of it stems from patients' lack of awareness and challenges pertaining to accessibility for diagnosis and treatment. Timely detection of this condition is critical as delayed detection can cause severe long-term nerve damage in patients."
Novartis has extended its MoU with the WHO through 2,025 for donating the global supply of leprosy drugs completely free of charge.
Vaishali Iyer, Country Head, Communications, Engagement & CSR, Novartis in India said, "We have been donating the global supply of leprosy drugs completely free of charge through the WHO leading to reducing the global disease burden by 95 per cent. In 2020, we renewed our pledge and extended our MoU with the WHO through 2025. We believe that collaborations like these will be crucial in our fight against leprosy."
Experts stressed that awareness campaigns deal with stigma and discrimination associated with the disease and encourage those who are infected to come forward for treatment.
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