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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

MEMO: Promoting Inclusion

WHO informal consultation looks at stopping discrimination, promoting inclusion.

An informal consultation on Stopping Discrimination and Promoting Inclusion of Persons Affected by Leprosy was held in New Delhi from November 14 to 16. Some 40 delegates took part, including persons affected by leprosy, national leprosy program managers, NGO workers and experts in mental health and disability prevention.

Participants acknowledged that stigma and discrimination related to leprosy still exist at a significant level and agreed that information needs to be collected in a more systematic manner to assess the magnitude of the problem and to plan further activities to reduce it.

They noted with appreciation the fact that the WHO’s Global Leprosy Strategy 2016-2020 recognizes stopping discrimination and promoting inclusion as a core component in the fight against leprosy, and identified the goal of zero countries with discriminatory laws as one of the principal targets of the strategy.

The consultation came up with a number of recommendations. Among them were:

National leprosy programs

  • Do more to address stigma, discrimination and other social issues related to leprosy and take appropriate remedial measures
  • Ensure meaningful engagement of persons affected by leprosy at all decision-making levels
  • Undertake capacity-building activities to improve knowledge, skills and attitudes of health care staff in providing services to persons affected by leprosy
  • Ensure, through a designated qualified focal person, availability of proper documentation and facilitate access to social entitlements such as pensions and state welfare measures, for those in need

WHO

  • Develop a long-term engagement with parliamentarians for the elimination of stigma and discrimination, working with the Inter-Parliamentary Union to accelerate efforts in amending or abolishing discriminatory laws against leprosy.
  • Develop guidelines for counseling in collaboration with relevant WHO departments, experts in mental health and International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Association (ILEP) partners

NGOs

  • Define the extent of disability depending on functional status of persons affected by leprosy, in order to mainstream them with other disabilities, thus enabling access to social entitlements on a par with disabilities due to other diseases
  • Assess magnitude of needs relating to various aspects of leprosy, e.g., instances of discrimination, human rights violations, medical interventions, reconstructive surgery needs, assistive devices, employment opportunities, social entitlements, policies and government regulations

Persons affected by leprosy

  • Play an active role in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluation of national programs
  • Enhance capacity and leadership at all levels for more effective participation.