The World Health Organization today called on countries in the South-East Asia region and globally to urgently address the leprosy service gap disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and to accelerate efforts to achieve zero leprosy infection and disease, zero leprosy disability and zero leprosy stigma and discrimination — – Vision for the WHO Global Leprosy Strategy 2021–2030.
“Leprosy is 100% curable when detected early, but today, in addition to the challenges associated with COVID-19, stigma and discrimination – whether institutionalized or informal – continue to hinder timely diagnosis and treatment, and Facilitate further spread. This must change,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia.
In 2021, 140 000 new cases of leprosy will be reported, with 95% of new cases coming from the 23 global priority countries. Of these, 6% were diagnosed with visible deformity or grade 2 disability (G2D). More than 6% of the new cases were children under 15 years of age, 368 of whom were diagnosed with a secondary disability.
Despite a 10% increase in new case reports from 2020 to 2021, 30% fewer cases were reported in 2021 than in 2019. This is not due to a reduction in transmission, but rather to cases going undetected due to disruptions related to COVID-19.
“Countries must continue to urgently restore leprosy services, focusing on scaling up single-dose rifampicin chemoprevention, enhancing active case detection, and ensuring timely diagnosis and combination therapy,” said Dr Khetrapal Singh.
The Regional Director emphasized focusing on vulnerable groups, including women, children, immigrants, refugees, the elderly, the homeless, residents of impoverished leprosy “colonies” and people living in geographically hard-to-reach areas, to end suffering and achieve zero leprosy.
According to reports, seven countries have enacted at least 115 discriminatory laws. WHO calls on all countries to immediately and explicitly repeal discriminatory laws and abide by and implement the United Nations principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against leprosy patients and their families.
Over the past decade, significant progress has been made in several key areas of global leprosy prevention and control, with a 27% reduction in new pediatric cases from 2010-2019 and a 23% reduction in visible malformations at diagnosis from 2014-2014 New pediatric case detection rate in 2019 From 9.8 in 2014 to 7.6 per million children.
As up to 50% of people with leprosy face mental illness such as depression, anxiety disorders and suicide attempts, countries should also increase access to mental health care for people with leprosy and their families, an important feature of the Global Leprosy Strategy, while Expand diagnosis and treatment.
“People affected by leprosy must be involved, empowered and engaged in all aspects of decision-making, including service design and delivery, as well as social and economic activities. To this end, community-based organizations and networks should be supported, nurtured and integrated into decision-making processes, while expanding livelihood-enhancing services,” the Regional Director said.
“Act now. End leprosy.” is the theme of this year’s World Leprosy Day. WHO reaffirms its strong support for leprosy-affected countries in the South-East Asia region and around the world to drive rapid, equitable and sustained progress towards our targets and targets for zero leprosy infection and disease, zero disability and zero leprosy disease stigma and discrimination by 2030.
“Leprosy has afflicted humanity for millennia; however, we can be the generation that ends the spread of leprosy, ends the suffering, and ensures that we leave no one behind,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh.