Press Release - September 2017

UK-based international leprosy charity, Lepra state that despite the acknowledgement of the rise in leprosy cases in the latest WHO leprosy update – the hidden cases have been overlooked.

Geoff Prescott, Chief Executive at Lepra comments:

“The increase of reported cases from 211,973 in 2015 to 214,738 in 2016 shows that leprosy is on the rise. Specifically in India – a country which holds two thirds of the world’s leprosy burden – reported cases are now at their highest since 2007. However, despite this acknowledgement, the report overlooks the 3 million unreported cases of leprosy.

A key method to find and treat cases of undiagnosed leprosy is with active case finding, where households and communities across high endemic areas are screened for the disease.

The report highlights the success of India’s National Leprosy Eradication Programme’s (NLEP) Leprosy Case Detection Campaign (LCDC) which led to the detection of 34,000 new cases – proving that active case finding is an effective model. However, active case finding carried out by Lepra in the Indian state of Bihar over a 6 month period found 3 times as many cases than the Indian government who carried out similar methods in the same area over the course of a year.

The quality and thoroughness of active case finding is dependent on the strength of government detection programmes. In many countries, resources can be sparse and priorities can be elsewhere which means that government led active case finding is not always carried out to its fullest capacity. As a consequence, many cases are missed; they remain untreated and fall off official global health records – meaning that we do not get a true depiction of the number of people affected by leprosy.

Given that India has a population of over a billion, it shows that momentum needs to be kept up to ensure that greater numbers of people are screened properly for the disease.

Whilst the news of finding greater numbers of people affected by leprosy is to be celebrated, more work needs to be done to strengthen government provision, establish uniformity of active case finding methods, reinstate partnerships between governments and NGOs and for all activities to be carried out on a much greater scale.

This effort will work to find and treat the remaining hidden cases of leprosy and we will gain an accurate measurement of the true extent of this global health issue.”

About Lepra

We are a UK-based international charity working to beat leprosy.

This disease affects millions of the most vulnerable people in the world, causing life-changing disabilities and attracting terrible stigma. But there is a cure.

We work directly with communities in Bangladesh, India and Mozambique to find, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate people affected by leprosy.

By raising awareness, pushing for early detection and supporting people living with disabilities caused by leprosy, we are working towards a day when this disease no longer destroys lives. With your support we can help more people and reach this day sooner.

Diseases like leprosy and LF are both a consequence and a cause of poverty. We support people to improve their lives so that they can overcome disease and escape this cycle of poverty.

Our custom-made shoes protect the feet of people affected by leprosy and lymphatic filariasis so that they can walk to work. This means that they can be self-sufficient and support their families.

Our in-country teams visit communities to screen people for leprosy and provide access to the cure, helping us to reach more people earlier and provide treatment before disability develops.

The stigma surrounding leprosy and LF means that people are shunned and isolated, so health education and raising awareness about these diseases is also an essential part of our work.

For more information please contact:

Fiona Graham (Communications Officer)
E. [email protected] T. + 44 (0)1206 216710