12 December 2010
By Umesh Isalkar
Resolution Encourages Govts To Formulate Proper Policies
“The fight against leprosy is two–pronged, i.e., the medical fight for elimination of the disease and the social fight against discrimination faced by people affected by leprosy. And, now, we have strong tools to facilitate our fight to tackle the social discrimination,” said Yohei Sasakawa, the World Health Organisation’s goodwill ambassador for leprosy elimination.
“The landmark resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in September 2010 encourages governments to give due consideration to the principles and guidelines in formulating policies to eliminate discrimination against people affected by leprosy and their family members,” Sasakawa added. He was in the city to attend a workshop on ‘An inclusive society, leprosy and human rights’, at Yashada on Sunday.
Stressing on the role of social sector, Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, said: “The UNHRC resolution itself is not sufficient to change the world. Now, it depends on the people affected by leprosy, in co–operation with various social sectors, how we use these tools effectively to discuss with governments and authorities to realise the betterment of lives of the affected people.”
“National and international level networks of people affected by leprosy have to be created and further strengthened to discuss with authorities various issues surrounding leprosy,” said Sasakawa.
KEY FACTS ABOUT THE DISEASE
- Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by a bacillus, mycobacterium leprae
- Mycobacterium leprae multiplies very slowly and the incubation period of the disease is about five years. Symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear
- Leprosy is not highly infectious. It is transmitted via droplets from the nose and mouth during close and frequent contacts with untreated cases.
- Untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Early diagnosis and treatment with multidrug therapy remain the key elements in eliminating the disease
- It is not hereditary
- Leprosy is very hard to develop; most people have a built–in immunity to it
- The first dose of multi–drug therapy kills 99.9% of the bacteria that cause leprosy, rendering the person no longer infectious
- If treatment has been delayed, the patient may be left with recurring ulcers and permanent damage
- Diagnosed early and addressed promptly, leprosy need leave no trace
- Only when the disease goes untreated does the damage caused to the peripheral nerves lead to loss of sensation and cause ulceration and wounds
- Unchecked, leprosy disfigures and can result in permanent disability
- In 2009 there were less than 2.5 lakh new cases of leprosy reported in the world, more than half of it in India
- Brazil and Indonesia also contribute a significant number of new cases
- The prevalence rate of the disease has dropped by 90% – from 21.1 per 10,000 inhabitants in 1980 to less than 1 per 10,000 inhabitants in 2000.
- Leprosy has been eliminated from 119 out of the 122 countries where the disease was considered as a public health problem in 1985. However, pockets of high endemicity still remain in some areas of Angola, Brazil, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, India, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, and the United Republic of Tanzania
- Expand multi–drug therapy (MDT)
- Ensure that all existing and new cases are given appropriate MDT regimens
- Encourage all patients to take treatment regularly and completely t Promote awareness
- Set targets
- Keep records of all activities in order to monitor the progress towards elimination
Compared with the number of people who fall ill with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis, leprosy almost pales into insignificance. But people with leprosy, those cured of it, and even their family members continue to be discriminated against on the basis of fears, myths and outdated notions
UNHRC’s Resolution and Principles and Guidelines
- The resolution aims to end discrimination against people affected by leprosy and their family members
- The principles and guidelines, unanimously adopted by the UNHRC, convey the nature and scale of the problem
- The principles and guidelines note that the people affected by leprosy, including sufferers’ family members, are entitled to the same rights as everyone else with respect to marriage, family and parenthood
- They are entitled to the same rights with respect to citizenship and obtaining identity documents
(Source: World Health Organisation)