The Blueprint for Eliminating Leprosy in India #CreatingHope

by - February 07, 2020

Nearly two to three million people across the world live with leprosy today of which India accounts for over 60% of all the new cases. While it’s true that a lot has been done over the last century to make this disease curable, there’s still more that needs to be done. People affected by Leprosy along with their families continue to remain isolated in India and are often deprived of educational and vocational opportunities for the same.
Although leprosy is a fully curable disease, several discriminatory laws still exist against people affected by it. This, at a time when the youth of India are not even aware that this disease still exists.

This begs the question though - Is leprosy elimination possible in India? The answer - Yes.



In the review of ‘No Matter Where the Journey Takes Me’ by Yohei Sasakawa, the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, José Ramos-Horta, the former President of East Timor of talks about how his country was successfully freed from leprosy. Yohei Sasakawa’s global fight against leprosy cannot be won until it’s completely eradicated from India. The sustained efforts of Yohei Sasakawa and the Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation, offer a visionary blueprint on the steps needed to eradicate this disease.

So how do we end leprosy? 



Unlike other diseases, the broad tentacles of leprosy do not end just by successfully identifying likely patients and providing them with the medicines. True elimination of leprosy would involve a multi-factorial approach that includes breaking the stigma associated with this disease, changing outdated laws that discriminate against people affected by leprosy and helping reintegrate those affected by the disease back into the society.


What India should focus on in the fight to eliminate leprosy?



Raising Awareness 

The biggest obstacles that the people affected by leprosy face are the blind beliefs and misconceptions in the minds of the general public. This can be combated through proper educational programs and awareness drives, both at the ground level and through help from the media in countering such beliefs. Positive stories of those who have been cured by leprosy should also be showcased. These days, social media campaigns and influencers connect to the public in large numbers that offers a viable option for disseminating correct information.

Early Identification and Rehabilitation

Identifying people who are at the highest risk of developing physical disabilities at an early stage and providing early treatment which can change the course of the disease and the individual's life completely.

Integration into society

Perhaps, the most important thing that India needs to work on is reintegration of people affected by leprosy back into society. The Stigma Elimination Programme (STEP) conducted in Nepal showed how people who were welcomed back positively felt more empowered and in turn became agents of change within their own community.

Under the Education Program, Sasakawa -India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF) offers scholarships, skill development programs and after school learning opportunities to over 3000 youth and children across 15 states. Over the last 10 years since its inception, S-ILF has impacted the lives of 5,489 leprosy affected people directly and approximately 27,445 family members indirectly through 320 projects. This is in addition to running more than 268 projects spanning across 263 colonies, 214 districts and 18 states of India in the most disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

Changing Discriminatory Laws

Unknown to the public, several outdated laws remain discriminatory to people affected by leprosy. These include so many that we take for granted – The Hindu Marriage Act, the Indian Christian Marriage Act, Special Marriage Act, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act, the Indian Divorce Act, the Indian Railways Act. along with the basic rights like, the right to inclusion in society and participation in politics are denied to them. This discrimination has gone on for far too long and needs to stop now. 

In the end, it comes down to us. We need to dispel our wrong notions, change our mindset and actively work together against leprosy. If we succeed, we will truly have overcome one of the biggest burdens that has held India back for centuries.

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5 comments

  1. I am heartened to read about the efforts being made to eradicate Leprosy by the various organizations and efforts world over. I hope and pray that its completely taken out of India too and a huge mindset change is offsetted here to make it successful.

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    1. These are the kind of things Indian media should be focusing on instead of what it regularly does...

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  2. Informative! Sharing with hopes of spreading awareness.

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  3. This is so informative. I think the most important aspect is integrating people suffering from leprosy into the society, giving them a new chance at life.

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  4. It's shocking that leprosy is still around! My Dad, post retirement from the Army, worked for several years in the field of rehabilitation and awareness. There was a time when it was almost eradicated in India. Sad that it's made a comeback!

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So what do you think ?