India accounts for 52% of world’s new leprosy patients


    In Context

    • The Union Health Ministry has formulated the National Strategic Plan and Roadmap for Leprosy 2023-2027 for achieving zero cases of leprosy infection by 2030.


    • According to the Union Health Ministry, despite India being declared “Leprosy Eliminated” in 2005, the country still accounts for about 52% of the world’s new leprosy patients.
    • It is noted that earlier gains made in the leprosy programme in India were reversed during the COVID-19 pandemic as case detection dropped significantly and the decline in detection has led to an increase in patients with grade 2 disabilities.
    • States such as Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Dadra Nagar Haveli and Daman Diu have either one or more districts (total 82 districts) which are yet to achieve leprosy elimination target and account for over 90% of cases in the country.


    • About:
      • Leprosy is a chronic bacterial infection, which affects the skin, nerves, lungs and eyes.
      • Also known as Hansen’s disease, it is caused by the Mycobacterium leprae bacteria. 
    • Symptoms:
      • It can be recognized by the appearance of patches of skin that may look lighter or darker than the normal skin.
      • Sometimes the affected skin areas may be reddish. Loss of feeling in these skin patches is common.
    • Transmission:
      • It  is a communicable infection, which means it may spread from person to person. The most common route of transmission is. however, through nasal secretions
    • Treatment:
      • It is easily treated with a combination of antibiotics like Dapsone, Clofazimine, and Rifampicin.

    National Leprosy Eradication Programme 

    • The National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) is a Centrally Sponsored Health Scheme.
    • It has been implemented with the major objective of reducing the disease burden, preventing disability and improving awareness among the mass about Leprosy and its curability.
    • “Leprosy-free India” is the vision of the NLEP.

    World Leprosy Day

    • World Leprosy Day is observed globally on the last Sunday of January each year.
    • The World Health Organization (WHO) announced “Act Now. End Leprosy.” as its theme for World Leprosy Day 2023.
    • The theme stresses three main points: 
      • one, that elimination of leprosy is possible; 
      • two: that immediate action is required, that includes resources and commitment; 
      • and third that leprosy is preventable and treatable