Shortage of program personnel prompts action
Concerned about the shortage of program personnel in the National Leprosy Eradication Program, India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has instructed states to fill vacancies in the NLEP during program review meetings attended by the State Health Secretaries and Program Managers.
According to reports, only nine states - Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal - have dedicated leprosy officers in place. At the district level, 116 posts out of 311 posts in 523 districts in 20 states are vacant.
At the beginning of 2009, there were 86,331 registered cases of leprosy in India, or a prevalence rate of 0.72 per 10,000 people at the national level. For the year 2008, a total of 134,184 cases were detected.
An updated leprosy fact sheet has been published in the Weekly Epidemiological Record (No.6, 210, 85). The fact sheet notes that the global burden of leprosy has declined dramatically, from 5.2 million cases in 1985 to 805,000 in 1995 to 793,000 at the end of 1999 to 213,036 cases at the end of 2008.
In order to reach all patients, treatment of leprosy needs to be fully integrated into general health services, "the key to successful elimination of the disease," the document says.
Concerning the age-old stigma attached to leprosy, which remains an obstacle to selfreporting and early treatment, the image of leprosy "has to be changed at the global, national and local levels," it says. "A new environment, in which patients will not hesitate to come forward for diagnosis and treatment, must be created."
IDEA (Integration, Dignity, and Economic Advancement) celebrated its 12th annual International Day of Dignity and Respect on March 11. The event, which was established in 1999 to focus on the dignity inherent in every human being, was marked by activities conducted by members of the IDEA network in different countries around the world.