EDITORIAL: Avoid stigma

The society can play a crucial role in eradicating leprosy. If the stigma associated with the disease is dealt this will be a big step forward

Every last Sunday of January is observed as World Leprosy Day with emphasis to achieve the target of ultimately eradicating this disease. This year the focus aptly is zero cases of leprosy-related disabilities on children. Leprosy had been eliminated as a global health problem in 2000. Nepal has succeeded in doing away with leprosy as a public health problem in December 2009 and declared its elimination in 2010. According to the World Health Organization, leprosy is considered eliminated after the number of such cases drops to less than one case per for 10,000 people. Although much has been achieved in dealing with this malady at the national level challenges remain such as sustaining the achievements made in the fight against leprosy so far and further addressing the illness and reducing the burden. This is possible if we are able to deliver quality leprosy services.

The leprosy scourge continues to afflict thousands of people every year. It is estimated that 212,000 more leprosy cases occurred globally in 2015 alone. Thus, leprosy continues to remain a serious health problem. Many suffer from the disease, and it continues to have an adverse impact on the families of leprosy patients and the communities too. Sadly, there is a stigma attached to leprosy as a result of which many leprosy patients tend to hide their disease because of the stigma with this disease. Many leprosy patients are ostracized and live in appalling conditions. Fortunately, leprosy is one of the least communicable diseases, and it can be cured particularly if the disease is detected in the early stages. Steps need to be taken urgently to prevent the transmission of leprosy as a large number of people suffer

from it still. It would be helpful if the socio-economic needs of those affected with leprosy are met, and they do not have to live in inhumane conditions which many are doing even now.

In order to deal with the stigma against those with leprosy the concerned health authorities could do all they can to include such persons and the communities in their programme. Although there are laws in many countries that prohibit discrimination against those with leprosy they continue to be victimized which is very tragic, and these laws need to be strictly enforced. In Nepal free treatment is being provided for leprosy patients. New cases are being detected and attempts are being made to treat leprosy through timely treatment with multi-drug therapy by providing integrated health services. People should be made aware of the symptoms of leprosy about which there is widespread misconception. Many falsely regard leprosy as a curse. Those who show symptoms of the disease should immediately seek the attention of medical practitioners without delay. If the necessary measures were taken then it would be a great help in eventually doing away with leprosy. Meanwhile, the society as a whole could play a crucial role in making this possible. If the stigma associated with the disease is dealt this would be a big step forward. While observing the World Leprosy Day its programme should seek the participation of non-governmental and the civil society organizations too which could assist in making them successful.

Missing deadline

The much-awaited Melamchi Drinking Water Project is unlikely to meet its latest deadline of supplying water to the Kathmandu Valley by mid-October this year. Project authorities have said that the last portion of the project’s tunnel being dug has confronted weak rocks decelerating the digging of tunnel by almost 50 percent. The project was digging about 25 metres a day. Now it has gone down to 12 metres a day due to lose rocks which need extra efforts to stabilize them. Due to the geological condition faced at the last portion of the tunnel construction the project officials have admitted that they might miss the deadline set earlier.

Started in 2000 the project assisted by Asian Development Bank is expected to supply 170 mld water a day in the Valley under the first phase. Once the project comes into operation the Valley denizens will feel some respite from a drinking water crisis. After the second phase of the project is also completed the Valley will receive 510 mld of water a day which will meet the daily requirement of the Valley’s population for up to 2030. The project should also complete its other task of laying pipelines and reservoirs in the city areas to supply water.