For the Government of Nepal eradicating leprosy is turning out to be a challenging task as the country sees sharp rise in the number of leprosy patients in the recent years.
In the year 2017 alone, Nepal recorded 3,000 new leprosy patients.
Despite government’s efforts, the number of leprosy patients in the country has been constantly rising for the past two years. As per the data, there were 5,922 leprosy patients in the country in the fiscal 2016-17, while the number stood at 5,641 in the fiscal 2015-16 and 5,477 in the fiscal 2014-15.
A health workers’ team deployed in Kapilvastu diagnosed 70 new patients within a week recently. Lack of awareness, poor personal hygiene and sanitation and low economic status of the people are to blame for the increasing number of leprosy patients. “Due to lack of awareness of personal hygiene, skin-related diseases and its mode of transmission, people are still suffering from the disease,” said Mohammad Saud, director at Leprosy Control Division.
Children too have been the victims of the disease. “They are more prone to the disease as they come into contact with people suffering from leprosy in their community more frequently and can not take care of their personal hygiene on their own. However, early treatment can avert disability and deformity,” said Saud.
“In order to help control the number of children suffering from leprosy, we need to organise school and community centric programmes. Leprosy control programmes should be integrated with other health programmes,” said Deputy Director General at the Department of Health Services Chudamani Bhandari.
Reports from 145 countries of World Health Organisation’s six regions show that of the total 216,108 newly diagnosed cases of leprosy in 2016, the number of children was 18,472. It is around nine per cent of leprosy cases reported annually.
The WHO also says national programmes should boost active case-finding, strengthen surveillance, improve contact-tracing and focus more on early detection of leprosy cases among children to meet the target of bringing the number of children suffering from leprosy to zero by 2020.
Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by a slow multiplying bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae.