Dr David Pahan, Lepra in Bangladesh We stole a few minutes from Dr David Pahan, Lepra Bangladesh's Director for Programme Development, to find out what inspired him to work for Lepra and the challenges he faces in Bangladesh. 

Why do you do what you do for Lepra? 

"What I have observed is that Lepra is a small organisation, but that especially in Bangladesh it is doing a huge amount of work, especially in the leprosy field. Lepra is the leading organisation among the leprosy organisations working in Bangladesh, and it also has a very good relationship and close collaboration with the National Leprosy Elimination Programme and other departments of the government, as well as with the district health administrators on the district level.

I also have a special interest to work in disability. I did my postgraduate degree on the subject of disability. I found that Lepra is working on providing an inclusive disability service, especially offering services for leprosy patients, but also for persons with other disabilities. So I think this is a unique opportunity for me to offer my talents and skill in terms of disability service, especially in the government hospitals.

Also, Lepra has developed a new way of approaching the problem of leprosy. We have special leprosy services as well as some new projects, such as the WASH (water sanitation and hygiene) project. With these new projects, Lepra wants to focus especially on early case detection. Another such project is the Community Level Health System Strengthening Project. It is a very different type of approach, with which we aim to increase the capacity of health staff as well as develop an integrated leprosy service in government health services. 

What are the major challenges you face in Bangladesh?

"Every year, we experience floods in most of the parts of Bangladesh. The area where Lepra is working is beside the major river, so when there is flooding, most of the place is under water. So sometimes it’s very difficult to go to the rural areas and provide services to the community.

Also, I found that especially in the field of leprosy, the leprosy expertise and skills are declining. People are retiring and no new people are coming into this work. Thirdly, we have also observed that, especially due to the culture, it is sometimes difficult to reach women, so that is one of the areas we still find challenging. And lastly, in the rural areas, we have seen low literacy rates, so sometimes it is difficult to communicate and create awareness among the rural people, especially on leprosy, TB and other health issues.”