Despite ‘elimination’ claims, Odisha’s fight against leprosy continues

Bhubaneswar: The rising number of leprosy patients in Odisha has raised serious questions on the state of healthcare in the State. As per a report published on the basis of the figures of last 3 years, there are 300 more cases of leprosy in Odisha in 2018 than 2016. ParticularIy in Koraput, the number of leprosy patients was 155 in every 10,000 people in 2009 as compared to 251 in the year 2019.

While the central government had declared to have ‘eliminated’ leprosy in the year 2005, multiple number of cases were subsequently reported from different places especially from Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput (KBK) region.

“In 2005, the government had declared the state as leprosy free. But some hidden cases were left. After change in surveillance strategy, house to house search under leprosy detection case, revealed some new cases,” said Koraput CDMO Dr Lalit Kumar Rath.

“There were many hidden cases. Many cases have come to the fore in last 3 to 4 years,” District leprosy officer Dr Anil Kumar Sahoo said.

Due to the rising number of leprosy cases, many NGOs who are working towards the eradication of the disease have expressed concern and resentment. “The cases of leprosy are slowly increasing in places like Koraput, Malkangiri, Rayagada and Nabarangpur where rate of literacy is very low. The organisations who work towards eliminating leprosy are not active anymore as a result of which no awareness programmes are being conducted,” Secretary of Sobha NGO Sanjit Patnaik said.

Last year, the Supreme Court ordered that awareness be spread about the free treatment available to cure leprosy and had directed the central and state governments to formulate rehabilitation schemes for those suffering from the disease. “Throughout the year, awareness campaigns should also be run to inform the people that under the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP), treatment is provided free of cost to all leprosy cases,” the court said.