When India’s nation leprosy program manager gave a PowerPoint presentation in Chhattisgarh recently, he made a point of commenting on the image he had used on the title page. It showed a young girl looking out of the doorway of her home; on the door, written in chalk, was information concerning the household recorded as part of a massive leprosy case detection campaign conducted last year. What Dr. Anil Kumar wanted to draw his listeners’ attention to were the eyes of the girl, “eyes filled with hope,” he said.
Dr. Kumar, the deputy director general (leprosy), takes his responsibilities extremely seriously, as is clear from the Goodwill Ambassador’s account of his presentation on page 7. In a separate conversation, he said that when one has seen a 13-year-old girl with disabilities as a result of leprosy, and contemplated how this is going to affect the rest of her life, including her marriage prospects, it is impossible not to want to prevent this happening to other people. From his words and deeds, it is apparent that Dr. Kumar is on a mission to make up for lost time after rates of disability were allowed to creep up.
Vagavathali Narsappa, the president of India’s Association of People Affected by Leprosy, was a boy when he contracted leprosy. He lost parts of his fingers due to the disease and faced rejection and stigma. This happened to Mr. Narsappa 40 years ago. “This should not still be happening to children today,” he said.
Steps are being taken to address this issue at the global level as part of the WHO’s current five-year strategy for leprosy and in India under the National Leprosy Eradication Programme piloted by Dr. Kumar. Eyes filled with hope are watching.