UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for stronger commitments and accelerated efforts to associated discrimination and stigma against people with leprosy.
Guterres made the call in a message to the 13th Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination Against Persons Affected by Leprosy.
The UN chief regretted that leprosy was an age-old disease that had maimed, ostracised and isolated so many, especially the most vulnerable.
According to him, however, we have seen important progress over the past decades.
The UN scribe said: “Millions of patients have been cured. But we need stepped-up efforts.
“As you highlight today, we must also work to end stigma and discrimination against people affected by leprosy.
“We know these harmful attitudes force many people to keep the disease hidden and delay early access to care”.
Guterres said the world had set a goal for zero leprosy-related disabilities in girls and boys by 2020.
According to him, we must also work to ensure universal health coverage.
“Your efforts are an important contribution to reaching our shared goals and leaving no one behind,” he said.
NAN reports that the UN on April 20, 2016, launched a new global strategy for a world free of leprosy.
The strategy aims to, by 2020, reduce to zero the number of children diagnosed with leprosy and related physical deformities; reduce the rate of newly-diagnosed leprosy patients with visible deformities to less than one per million; and ensure that all legislation that allows for discrimination on the basis of leprosy is overturned.
The UN says leprosy was eliminated globally in the year 2000 with the disease prevalence rate dropping to below one per 10,000 population.
Though all countries have achieved this rate at the national level, at the sub-national level, it remains an unfinished agenda.
The UN says of the 213,899 new cases in 2014, 94 per cent were reported from Bangladesh, Brazil, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar and Myanmar.
Others are Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Tanzania. India, Brazil and Indonesia account for 81 per cent of the newly diagnosed and reported cases globally.
The main and continuing challenges to leprosy control, the UN said, have been the delay in detection of new patients and persisting discrimination against people affected by leprosy which has ensured continued transmission of the disease. (NAN)