31 January, 2018, Colchester – Lepra, the UK-based specialist leprosy charity, has warned that the failure to include leprosy in a new government funding programme will hinder the fight to beat this disease, allowing it to continue to destroy the lives of millions of vulnerable people across the globe.

At an event held at the House of Lords and hosted by Lord Gadhia last night (30th January 2018), Lepra urged the UK government to open the new Accelerating Sustainable Control and Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ASCEND) funding call to cover leprosy, and in particular, leprosy in India, which carries 63% of the leprosy burden.

The meeting, held in support of World Leprosy Day, attracted a diverse and multicultural audience that included senior parliamentarians, leaders from major faiths as well as government officials, aid and health experts. Many attendees expressed their surprise that although there is a cure for leprosy, it remains a major health issue in many developing countries, highlighting the lack of awareness which is common across much of the UK.

According to World Health Organisation, more than 200,000 new cases of leprosy are detected and diagnosed each year. Survey and research data also shows that more than 7 million people are currently affected by leprosy worldwide. Of these, 4 million have developed life-changing disabilities as a result of delayed treatment while over 3 million cases remain undiagnosed. Moreover, reported cases in India, are at a 10 year high. The cure for leprosy is Multi Drug Therapy which is administered free of cost to leprosy patients in all endemic countries.

Lord Gadhia commented:

“It is shocking that leprosy still exists today, despite the fact it is curable. Last year, India recorded over 135,000 leprosy cases – the country’s highest recorded figure in ten years and representing over 60 per cent of globally recorded new cases. These figures show that leprosy is gaining momentum.

“Social stigma is a major barrier which prevents people coming forward for treatment. In our fight to beat this disease, it is critical we raise awareness of leprosy in communities both in the UK, and across the globe, to help reduce this stigma, promote early treatment and transform lives.”

Geoff Prescott, Chief Executive at Lepra comments:

“Leprosy is an avoidable, tragic disease which affects millions of people in the developing world, yet it has been largely forgotten by the UK. It was wonderful to bring so many different communities together at the House of Lords to help bring this disease, and the people it affects, to the forefront of the national consciousness and in front of the UK government.

In order to achieve the Sustainable Development goals and ensure we ‘leave no one behind’ leprosy has to be included in future funding from DFID in full. Without a unified approach from NGOs, governments, the health sector, and communities, leprosy will remain one of the most neglected of neglected tropical diseases.”

The Colchester-based specialist charity invited attendees to join their campaign to urge MPs to push leprosy up the agenda and ensure it is included in all future NTD funding.

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