Leprosy in India

Ritesh Raj Sarraf's picture

During my recent travel, I had quite a long layover at the Doha International Airport in Qatar. While killing time, I watched an interesting programme on the Al Jazeera network.

The program aired on Al Jazeera is Lifelines. This special episode I watched, covered about "Leprosy in India". After having watched the entire programme, I felt the urge to blog about it.

First of all, it was quite depressing to me, to know through the programme, that the Govt. of India had officially marked "Leprosy" eradicated from India in 2005. As per Wikipedia, "Globally in 2012, the number of chronic cases of leprosy was 189,000, down from some 5.2 million in the 1980s. The number of new cases was 230,000. Most new cases occur in 16 countries, with India accounting for more than half." 

Of the data presented on Lifelines, they just covered a couple of districts from 2 States (of the 28+ States) of India. So, with many states remaining, and unserveyed, and uncounted, we are far away from making such statements.

Given that the Govt., on paper, has marked Leprosy eradicated; so does WHO. Which means that there is no more funding to help people suffering from the disease. And with no Govt. (or International) funding, it is a rather disappointing situation.

I come from a small town on the Indo-Nepal intl. border, named Raxaul. And here, I grew up seeing many people who suffered from Leprosy. As a child, I never much understood the disease, because as is mentioned in the programme, I was told it was a communicable disease. Those suffering, were (and are) tagged as Untouchables (Hindi:अछूत). Of my small town, there was and still is a sub-town, named Sunderpur. This town houses patients suffering from Leprosy, from around multiple districts closeby. I've never been there, but have been told that it is run by an NGO, and helps patients fight the disease.

Lifelines also reported that fresh surveys done by the Lepra society, just a 3 day campaign, resulted in 3808 new cases of people suffering from Leprosy. That is a big number, given accessibility to small towns only happens once a week on market day. And in 3 days the team hardly covered a couple of district towns.

My plea to the Media Houses of India. Please spend some time to look beyond the phony stuff that you mostly present. There are real issues that could be brought to a wider audience. As for the government, it is just depressing to know how rogue some/most of your statements are.

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Curable

Just to stress out an important point: Leprosy[1] is (has been, for 50 years or so) curable. In the past it has been considered a dreadful disease. In fact, it is a relatively slow-progressing one. If diagnosed soon enough it is not only curable but without all the infamous symptoms.

We recently had a hackathon in a place that was originally a leprosy colony (originally was out of the city, but the city grew around it). In recent years there were just not enough patients to require the place.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leprosy

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