Leprosy Still Affecting Poor Indians, Warns WHO

Leprosy Patient

It was claimed officially that leprosy had been eliminated from India six year ago. But, health officials are now saying this dreaded disfiguring disease continues to haunt poverty-stricken people in some parts of the nation. The World Health Organization (WHO) says about one-third of the districts in India could be affected by the spreading of new leprosy infections.

New Leprosy Infections
The WHO says new infections in India are the main reason why new global cases total more than 120,000 each year. Leprosy causes skin lesions and affects nerves located in the feet and hands, causing disability. 10% of the new cases in India affect children. This high rate shows very high transmission rates, says the WHO. This should warn the Indian government to take effective measures to stop the contagion.

Complacent Indian Government
The new spread of leprosy suggests that the disease can re-occur any time. Indian health officials say the government had been lulled into complacency after 2005. This made them lose focus and now the disease is creeping back into the country. In Maharashtra state, the number of new cases has gone up from 9 per 100,000 in 2007 to 13 per 100,000 today. This is worrying news, say officials.

Lack of Funding for Leprosy
Private and state donors had cut back funding which did not help. Lack of funds is delaying treatment for patients. Poor people are more affected by leprosy. Fear of social stigmatization forces many people to hide their infection. Health officials say poverty, overcrowding and unsanitary conditions help leprosy to thrive among poor people in India.

More Awareness Needed
WHO officials say India needs to raise awareness and educate people that leprosy is a social and medical challenge. Ancient customs that discriminate against leprosy patients need to be ignored and discarded. Though the leprosy battle was won by India in 2005, the war against this dreaded ancient disease continues, as revealed by the new infections.

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