Leprosy is an infectious disease involving the skin and nerves of infected individuals. Left untreated, nerve damage and other complications occur as the disease progresses. Lack of feeling leads to wounds and deformities of the face and limbs.
In many communities, leprosy leads to stigma towards those affected and their families, causing them to be shunned and even excluded from everyday life. Leprosy remains endemic in poorer parts of the world. Around 230,000 new patients are reported worldwide each year. In addition, it is estimated that at least 3 million people are living with some permanent disability due to leprosy, although the exact figure is unknown.
Fortunately, leprosy can be completely cured with a few months of effective drug treatment. If this is started at an early stage, most patients need never suffer the damaging complications of leprosy.
The World Health Organisation launched a new Global Strategy aiming at freeing the world of leprosy. It calls for accelerated efforts and stronger commitments to stop the transmission of leprosy.
The strategy is built on three major pillars. To further reduce the global and local leprosy burden it is aiming for:
• zero children with leprosy-affected disabilities,
• a reduction of new patients diagnosed with leprosy- related deformities,
• a repeal of all laws that allow discrimination of leprosy patients.
A cured leprosy patient showing his deformed hands in a New Delhi leprosy colony.
127,000 new cases of leprosy were reported in India in 2014.