Experts for more efforts to eradicate leprosy

KARACHI: An estimated 300 new leprosy cases are being registered annually in Pakistan but there is need to work hard to achieve the World Health Organization (WHO) strategy for 2016-20 so that leprosy could be eradicated from the country.

These thoughts were expressed by experts including Chief Executive Officer, Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC) Mervyn Lobo, Dr Ali Murtaza and Leprosy specialists DrMutaher Zia and Savio Pereira in a press briefing organized by MALC in connection of World Leprosy Day 2018 at its head office in Karachi.

Mervyn Lobo said these new cases are less than 1% in every 100,000 patients who are under treatment, less than one in every 10,000 disability ratio is less than one in 100,000, among children less than 10% in new cases. According to WHO’s strategy for 2016 – 2020, three targets have been set, Zero Transmission, Zero Disability in girls and boys, Zero Discrimination. There is need to work hard to achieve these targets so that Leprosy could be eradicated.

He said Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC) is working for the elimination of leprosy, TB and blindness from Pakistan for the last 65 years. Since MALC inception, more than 57,000 leprosy patients has received free of cost treatment in 157 MALC Leprosy Centres situation throughout Pakistan. In Sindh, leprosy cases are still being reported from slums areas of Karachi, Dadu and Jacobabad.

Mervyn Lobo said that MALC has been working to eliminate Leprosy from Pakistan for last sixty years. Like every year this year as well MALC has arranged a series of events to raise awareness about Leprosy. Besides this to share our achievements mainly to keep leprosy under control and to spread the key message that Leprosy is not a curse, it is a treatable disease like any other disease.

Every year, around the globe, World Leprosy Day is celebrated on the last Sunday. This day is commemorated to refresh the world to pledge alliance with people affected by Leprosy. No disease in the modern world has faced stigma of equal nature as leprosy.

He was of the view that year 2017 was a sad year for MALC and whole nation as we lost the person behind Leprosy Control Program Dr Ruth Pfau- Founding member of MALC. She devoted 57 years of her life for the cause and passed away at the age of 87.

In order to preserve her fond memories MALC’s management has converted her humble abode in to a museum showcasing her belongings, awards, publications and some rare priceless pictures. This museum is also being inaugurated January 27, 2018 and it will be associated with our Training Department and will be open for all educational institute so the generation to come would able to know about her contribution for Pakistan.

She has been a symbol of peace and love for her entire life for the downtrodden. We hope that what our small gesture will promote humanitarianism.

Dr Ali Murtaza& Dr. Mutaher Zia said that it seems leprosy will still be prevalent considering the slow and variable incubation period, the services have to be kept up for 3 to 4 decades. This year 531 Leprosy patients are under treatment and on medication. It is important to mention here though there has been a decline in new cases after leprosy control but at a very slow pace. After the control of Leprosy in 1996, so far MALC have achieved the targets as per standards developed by WHO.

The latest updates according to WHO’s standards are, 0.19% new cases, among them disability ratio is 0.12% and children are approximately 7% in them. Leprosy Control does not mean that it has been eradicated despite all of the achievements; there are still many cases who can infect others. They need to be found early so that they could be treated and to stop further spread of the disease. Apart from this, disability ratio is still 6% in children which is also an alarming situation.

They said after leprosy control, in order to continue surveillance and to ensure leprosy services in the field, additional disciplines were added which include Tuberculosis & Blindness control, Maternal Child Health Care (MCHC) along with Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) programs to tackle the situation. We feel privileged to acknowledge the support of Federal and Provincial Governments along with our corporate partners and international partners for the cause.

So far, MALC has registered 202,222 TB patients, among them over 87,000 were sputum positive who can be a cause of spreading the disease, they are now leading a healthy life. Likewise, we have facilitated 200,000 eye patients Free of Charge, among them 4,000 cataract surgeries were also performed through our base hospitals and surgical eye camps.

Every year, more than 100,000 children are screened for refractive errors and Vitamin A Capsules are given to those who have deficiency.

We have also initiated Community Based Inclusive Development program since last three years along with Mother and Child Health Care program in the selected project areas. All of the services provided through MALC are “Free of Charge”.