Kathmandu, January 21
Despite government efforts, the number of leprosy patients has been constantly rising in the country for the past two years.
As per data provided by Leprosy Control Division, there were 5,922 leprosy patients in the country in the fiscal 2016-17, up from 5,641 in the fiscal 2015-16. In the fiscal 2014-15, the number stood at 5,477.
Lack of awareness, poor personal hygiene and sanitation and low economic status of the people are mainly to blame for the increasing number of leprosy patients. “People are not aware of skin-related diseases and its mode of transmission. Social stigma attached to leprosy is still prevalent in the country and that is why people hide the disease,” said Mohammad Saud, director at Leprosy Control Division.
“People visit hospitals when the disease gets too severe,” said Saud. The country is set to observe an awareness week starting January 21 with the aim of raising public awareness on the disease and its mode of transmission.
The government plans to educate people about the disease through media campaigns and awareness programmes. It has already deployed a team of health practitioners to detect leprosy cases in four leprosy-affected districts — Kailali, Kapilvastu, Rupandehi and Nawalparasi.
Similarly the government has allocated a budget of Rs 30 lakhs for 14 leprosy-affected districts to combat the disease.
The country was declared leprosy-free in 2010. However, people are still suffering from the disease. Of the 22 leprosy-affected districts of the country, 18 are in the Tarai region that are worst-hit by the disease.
Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by a slow multiplying bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae. Untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to skin, limbs, eyes and nerves. Leprosy is transmitted via droplets from nose and mouth.
A version of this article appears in print on January 22, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.