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Saturday, August 15, 2009

World Leprosy Day. (1988-2)

35 years ago, Raoul Follereau founded ‘Leprosy Day’ with the object of focusing the world’s attention to the plight and misery of leprosy patients. Today, at least in Pakistan, the misery has been greatly ameliorated as more and more patients are found in the initial stages of leprosy and thus deformity is thwarted.

It is estimated that there are up to 15 million leprosy patients in the world. It is fortunate for us that the estimate of leprosy patients in Pakistan is between 35,000 to 40,000. Small in proportion, but if the problem is not tackled now, it will in the future become a major problem.
There is a total of 31,309 registered leprosy patients in Pakistan. By registered patients we mean all those who have so far been registered, regardless of whether they have since died or have been released from treatment.

There are 138 leprosy technicians treating the 12,635 patients who are currently under treatment and annually we discover, on ar average, 1,600 new patients who are added to this workload.

Leprosy is still a much dreaded disease in many parts of the world. This should not be so because it is a disease like any other disease caused by a bacterium similar to the one that causes Tuberculosis, It is dread because of the deformities and subsequent disabilities caused by these deformities.

Yet, all this can be prevented and avoided if the disease is detected in the early stages. Leprosy appears as a small skin lesion with loss of sensation and as it progresses a stage will be reached when the nerves become damaged, resulting in a loss of sensation over parts of the body which cab ultimately cause disfigurement of the patient.

With the new drugs available for the treatment of leprosy, there is no need to worry that the disease cannot be cured. It can be cured. The major problem faced today is that leprosy patients do not always seek treatment in time.

In Pakistan we have the infrastructure, Leprosy Control Centres and hospitals in every province, manned by well-trained and dedicated leprosy personnel.

However, leprosy still remains one of the least understood diseases, It is hoped that the public media to will assist in mounting a Leprosy Awareness Campaign so that the early signs and symptoms can be recognised so that the patient can seek treatment before’ deformity has Set in.

Gone should be the days of concentration on the leprosy patient as an object of pity - on leprosy as the summit of horror. The slogan to carry us forward to the turn of the century should be ’EARLY DETECTION MEANS EARLY CURE AND NO DEFORMITY’ .
World Leprosy Day is being celebrated in order to bring into focus the difficulties encountered by leprosy patients and the workers fighting against this once dreaded disease. Pakistan is doing its part in trying to control leprosy by the end of this century, although this struggle will not be without cost.

It is one that will need substantial financial resources and the determination to march ahead, despite the odds.

Contributed by National Leprosy Control Board

To commemorate World Leprosy Day, Pakistan Post Office is issuing a stamp of Rs 3 denomination on January 31, 1988.