Leprosy in India and National Leprosy Eradication Programme - Seeker's Thoughts

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Leprosy in India and National Leprosy Eradication Programme

Introduction-  Leprosy remains growing and it continues to account for 60%  new cases globally each year. India comes under top 22 global priority countries that contribute to leprosy cases. 

What is Leprosy ?

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is a long-term infection by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae or Mycobacterium lepromatosis. Initially, infections are without symptoms and typically remain this way for 5 to 20 years. Symptoms that develop include granulomas of the nerves, respiratory tract, skin, and eyes. This may result in a lack of ability to feel pain, which can lead to the loss of parts of extremities due to repeated injuries or infection due to unnoticed wounds. Weakness and poor eyesight may also be present. 

To tackle such cases of Leprosy, Indian government has launched NELP program, that stands for-  

National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NELP)-
the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) is the centrally sponsored health scheme of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. While the NLEP strategies and plans are formulated centrally, the programme is implemented by states and union territories (UTs). The programme is also supported by WHO, ILEP, and few other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

Problems and challenges with Program-
Lack of efficient reporting due to less awareness, continuing fear, stigma and discrimination leads to increase in cases.
Working programs are more concerned in achieving the target set by WHO instead of having a focus on eliminating.
Leprosy health workers are multipurpose workers with additional responsibility of HIV and tuberculosis control.
Lack of funding remains the issue as well
States which have reduced prevalence of cases earlier has also started getting the cases again which remains the matter of concern again.
The proportion of child cases was more than 10% of the new cases detected in 11 UT/States.

How to tackle the challenge? 
Skin Smear Devices those are needed for investigation need to be reintroduced in the system.
Need of wider awareness about leprosy should be given attention.
Collaboration between different government institutions, ministries and countries is suggested.