Leprosy in Nepal
Leprosy is found in more than 100 countries today. There are more than 200,000 new cases of leprosy diagnosed each year, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) figures (215,557 in 2013), with over half in India. Due to the marginalised situations of people with leprosy, ILEP, the umbrella organisation for anti-leprosy groups including The Leprosy Mission, estimate that many millions of people are not receiving a diagnosis and treatment thus leaving them vulnerable to permanent disability.There are more than three million people globally living with irreversible disability as a result of the late treatment of leprosy.
Nepal is the country with the seventh highest number of new leprosy cases diagnosed each year,with latest WHO figures revealing 3,254 people diagnosed in 2014, an increase from the previous year, of which 6% were children. The number of people being diagnosed with leprosy in Nepal is greatly reduced from earlier years, nevertheless, it continues to be a health issues, in particular in the Terai area neighbouring India.
In 2015 the Government Leprosy Control Division has reported the number of new case diagnoses in the last year as 3253. The General Health Services run by the Government now extend throughout Nepal and are primarily responsible for diagnosis and treatment with the standard multiple drug therapy. The Government plan to complete a pilot prophylaxis programme in selected districts of Nepal among long-term contacts of people recently diagnosed with leprosy. If this is proven to be practical then it will be extended across the whole country. The hope is that this will break the chain of transmission and be a key step towards eradicating leprosy in Nepal.
Leprosy is most common in the poorest sectors of local communities. As in many countries, persistent traditional attitudes towards leprosy in Nepal mean that people developing the initials signs of leprosy fear the consequences, personal and social as well as physical. The effect of stigma is to limit or deny participation within their communities, denying access to the transactions and mutual support and sharing that have traditionally characterised such communities. Caste and gender-based prejudices further exacerbate the situation. Delay in diagnosis and treatment, for any reason, places the person affected at risk of developing irreversible nerve impairments affecting sensation and movement.
TLM Nepal is involved in training Government General Health Service Medical Officers and other staff in the diagnosis and treatment of leprosy and also provides technical support. Through Anandaban Hospital it provides specialist services in reconstructive surgery and treatment for people experiencing complications due to leprosy. These are accessed locally and by referral from Government centres across Nepal.