WHO launches new global strategy to end leprosy
The WHO on Wednesdaylaunched a new global strategy for leprosy,
calling for stronger commitment and accelerated efforts to stop disease
transmission and end associated discrimination and stigma, to achieve a
world free of leprosy.
"The new global strategy is guided by the principles of initiating
action, ensuring accountability and promoting inclusivity and must be
embedded in all aspects of leprosy control efforts. A strategy can only
be as good as its implementation," Regional Director, WHO South-East
Asia Region Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said at the launch of the global
strategy for 2016-2020 'Accelerating towards a leprosy-free-world' in
Reduce to zero
The strategy aims to reduce to zero by 2020, the number of children
diagnosed with leprosy and related physical deformities, reduce the rate
of newly-diagnosed leprosy patients with visible deformities to less
than one per million, and ensure that all legislation that allows for
discrimination on the basis of leprosy is overturned.
The key interventions needed to achieve the targets include-
detecting cases early before visible disabilities occur, with a special
focus on children to reduce disabilities and reduce transmission,
targeting detection among higher risk groups through campaigns in highly
endemic areas or communities, and improving health care coverage and
access for the marginalised population.
Screening all close contacts of leprosy-affected persons, promoting a
shorter and uniform treatment regime and incorporating specific
intervention against stigma and discrimination are the other strategic
interventions that endemic countries need to include in their national
plans to meet the new targets.
The strategy builds on the success of previous leprosy control
strategies. It has been developed in consultation with national leprosy
programs, technical agencies and NGOs, patients and communities affected
by leprosy. The strategy focuses on equity and universal health coverage
which will contribute to reaching the Sustainable Development Goal on
The main and continuing challenges to leprosy control have been the
delay in detection of new patients and persisting discrimination against
people affected by leprosy which has ensured continued transmission of
the disease. Several leprosy-affected countries still have legislation
in place that allows discrimination against people suffering from
Social stigma impedes early detection of the disease, particularly in
children and increases disabilities. The stigma also facilitates
transmission among vulnerable groups, including migrant populations,
displaced communities, the ultra-poor and hard-to-reach population.
Combatting stigma and ensuring early diagnosis through active
case-finding, which the new strategy emphasizes, is critical to making
Leprosy was eliminated globally in 2000, with the disease prevalence
rate dropping to below one per 10,000 population. Though all countries
have achieved this rate at national level and sub-national level, it
still remains an unfinished agenda. Leprosy continues to afflict the
vulnerable, causing life-long disabilities in many patients, subjecting
them to discrimination, stigma and a life marred with social and
Of the 213 899 new cases in 2014, 94 percent were reported from 13
countries - Bangladesh, Brazil, the Democratic Republic of Congo,
Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, the
Philippines, Sri Lanka and the United Republic of Tanzania.
India, Brazil and Indonesia account for 81percent of the newly
diagnosed and reported cases globally.