Former president of India
Leprosy is a disease, which brings to the minds of the people images of deformity and begging and the reaction of the society has been to push the affected persons to live a life of ignominy. However, the Multi-drug Therapy has proved that medically the disease can be conquered, but much remains to be done to dispel the stigma attached to the disease. It is obvious that on this track, NGOs, along with the governments, have a crucial role to play. These NGOs need to network to understand the best practices, learn from each other's experiences and build on them.
Ever since its inception, the International Leprosy Union has been in the forefront in bringing all other NGOs working in this field and also leprosy workers on a common platform, and is working with a missionary zeal to remove from the minds of the people the myths and fears about the disease. The society has to ensure that the unfortunate leprosy affected persons are treated like human beings, capable of enjoying all their rights. Their children should not be brought up in an environment of charity or deprivation. They should be allowed to grow up as dignified citizens of this country. This human rights issue has to become a people's movement.
I am sure that with guidance from persons like Dr. S. K. Noordeen and Dr. S. D. Gokhale, the multi-pronged efforts of ILU will make a deep impact on how the society views this disease and those affected by it. The generous support from the Nippon Foundation/Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation has given the impectus ILU needs in order to achieve its objectives..0
I wish ILU every success in all its endeavors.
Former President of India
Message of Chairmain of ILU
ILU has focused its programmes and activities, besides the medical elimination of leprosy, on the elimination of the stigma attached to leprosy. Stigma is defined as, "A continuum of a social reaction to leprosy beginning with total rejection to total acceptance."
In this endeavor to eliminate the disease and the stigma and to ensure them their human rights and dignity, a well-defined strategy was evolved and discussed at two national - level workshops in Raipur and Delhi. This strategy included the following interventions -
To involve the cured persons to act as Lokdoots and create awareness about leprosy as well as to disseminate correct information about the disease and MDT.
2.To orient and involve the media in this campaign. The Madhyamdoot Fellowship Programme initiated by ILU with the support of SMHF/TNF is a stellar example of using the media, both print and electronic, to advocate the cause of leprosy. Publication of ILU's newsletter, "The Last Mile", which records and reviews the progress of the campaign and the book, "Dignity Regained",are also effective endeavors in this strategy. The above two publications are also published in Bengali, Hindi & Marathi.
3.The networking with NGOs and corporates, focused interventions like sponsoring the education of children affected by or in the shadow of leprosy, initiating special micro-credit schemes and self-help groups are also envisaged
4.Counseling of women abandoned by husbands because of leprosy is also planned to be undertaken. ILU has also carried out a situational analysis of leprosy in Thane district in Maharashtra to understand the perceptions of the leprosy affected people and the general community. A study that seeks to bring to notice the discriminatory laws with regard to leprosy especially in marital cases is also proposed
I am extremely happy and proud that the WHO has selected the ILU for the award of the coveted Sasakawa prize for its efforts in addressing the issues of leprosy. The prize will be awarded on May 25, 2006, at the headquarter of WHO, Geneva.
Dr. S. D. GOKHALE
Message from President of Nippon Foundation
In the previous issue, I used this space to congratulate India on eliminating leprosy as a public health problem. I'd like to extend my congratulations to Angola as well and express my sincere gratitude to the people in both countries who made these achievements possible.
In making the announcement, India declaired that it would continue to press for elimination at the subnational level. I am deeply appreciative of India's commitment , especially given that several Indian states have populations larger than many of the world's countries.
Its resolve to keep moving forward dispels the misgiving to those who feared that once the WHO goal had been achieved, the government would lose interest. But as I have repeatdly stated, achieving the elimination goal is only a milestone along he path to truly eradicating me that we are all thinking along the same lines.
" There is no place for complacency at any level" is the clear-cut message coming from the Indian government.
In Myanmar, every February 6 is observed as Leprosy Elimination Day. In times past, Myanmar had a serious leprosy problem. In 1973, its estimated prevalence rate was around 240. Nonetheless, it achieved elimination in 2003.
But as Myanmar's health minister was quick to point out at this year's event, the achievement needs to be sustained. There are still neglated populations to reach and interest in leprosy control must be maintained even as the disease burden is further reduced.
In Ethiopia, another country that achieved elimination some years back, the disability rate among new cases is extremely troubling, pointing to the need to make adjustments to the leprosy control program. Meanwhile, stigma and discrimination persist.
All this should keep us mindful of the fact that the elimination of leprosy as a public health problem is not the end of our struggle, and that we still have much to do.