Volume 3 Issue 4 - February 15, 2005

India tops world leprosy tables

DNIS News Network According to recent World Health Organisation statistics, 65 percent of the world's leprosy afflicted people live in India.

Picture showing prevalence of leprosy in Indian states. One of the most common sights on Delhi roads, about a decade ago, was throngs of so-called lepers. Most of them had been thrown out of their homes and ostracised by a fearful society and, as a result, had no option but to beg for a living. These days they may be less visible but that says nothing about leprosy prevalence in India. Of the worlds total population of leprosy affliceted people, as many as two-thirds are in India. According to World Health Organisation statistics, there are currently 5,23,605 cases of leprosy in the world. Of these a staggering 3,44,377 are in India alone!

The WHO goal of elimination of leprosy as a public health problem is defined as low prevalence below one case per 10,000 population. By the end of 2003, 113 countries had achieved this goal of leprosy elimination. At present, there are only nine countries, including India, where leprosy is yet to be eliminated.

The situation is worst in the South-east Asia region, which has the total 385,458 cases, the vast majority of which are in India, whch has a prevalence rate of 2.4 per 10,000. The only other countries failing to achieve the WHO Elimination Goal are Nepal (prevalence rate of 3.02 per 10,000) and Timor (prevalence rate of 2.93 per 10,000).

In India, leprosy is most prevalent in the states of Bihar, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi. These regions together account for 62.3% of leprosy cases in the country.

However the news is not all bad as 15 States have achieved theWHO goal of prevalence rates less than 1. These include: Nagaland, Haryana, Meghalaya, Himanchal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura, Punjab, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Manipur, Rajasthan, Kerela, Arunanchal Pradesh and Daman and Diu. Several states and Union Territories are also on the verge of achieving this goal, including Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Uttranchal, Gujarat, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Pondicherry.

This positive news can be extended across the country, but only if we can get the message across to all people that the disease is fully curable. According to Dr. P. K. Gopal, head of IDEA, an organisation of leprosy-affected and leprosy-cured people, the leprosy bacteria is present in every human. It erupts whenever the immune system becomes weak. He is determined to fight prejudice against leprosy afflicted people and to educate society that leprosy-cured people can live full and fulfilling lives, if only the stigma is removed.

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