The new partnership is launched ahead of World Leprosy Day, 2018. Photograph:( Others )
With over two lakh new cases of leprosy reported each year on an average globally, WHO has lauded the launch of a global partnership to stop leprosy, saying stronger force with a common vision was needed for speeding up efforts to end the disease.
The Global Partnership to Stop Leprosy was launched by a host of organisations with the support of the global health body.
The new partnership launched ahead of World Leprosy Day, 2018, brings together leading agencies and organisations working towards achieving zero leprosy in various parts of the world.
Advocating for enhancing efforts against leprosy, World Leprosy Day is observed every year on the last Sunday of January. This year, the day focuses on the critical target of zero leprosy-related disabilities in children by 2020.
"A collaborative approach by leading partners to address the remaining challenges with innovative solutions, is expected to provide renewed energy and impetus to accelerate efforts against leprosy," said Regional Director for WHO South-East Asia Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, who also WHO's Global Leprosy Programme.
"This is a turning point, we must harness this energy to free the world of leprosy forever," she said.
The partnership aims at supporting roll-out of global policy options, scale up interventions and mainstream leprosy under the aegis of universal health coverage.
The Global Partnership to Stop Leprosy is also expected to enhance implementation of WHO's Global Leprosy Strategy 2016-2020 "accelerating towards a leprosy-free world", which focuses on stronger political ownership, enhanced disease control and eliminating stigma and discrimination.
Globally, elimination of leprosy as a public health problem was achieved in the year 2000 with its prevalence reduced to less than one case per 10,000 population, each year on an average, more than 2,00,000 new cases are reported.
"Though there is progress, it is very slow," WHO said.
In 2017, as many as 18,472 new leprosy cases among children worldwide were reported to the World Health Organisation.
"Disabilities inhibit development, limit life-long productivity and result in stigma and discrimination.
"Given the presence of deformities and disabilities among new cases of leprosy, including in girls and boys, decisive action must be taken to detect and treat cases earlier," Dr Singh said.
Reaching zero leprosy-related disabilities among children means tackling stigma and discrimination head-on, she said, adding that fear of social exclusion continues to be a major cause of delay in diagnosis and treatment.
"It is, therefore, a major cause of deformity and disability," she said.
"On World Leprosy Day this year we must reflect on and renew our focus on ending leprosy-related disabilities in girls and boys. We must renew our commitment to achieving a world where no child is left behind," Dr Singh said.