From Dec 11-12 the plight of people with Leprosy took centre stage during the National Conference on Zero Leprosy Initiative 2030 and at the historic and the first-ever the Conference of Organizations of persons affected by Leprosy- in partnership with the Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Health Foundation.
Dr Rahat Chawdhury is the Deputy Program Manager at the National Leprosy Program of Bangladesh. His is the umbrella organization of hundreds of doctors, technical experts, counsellors, strategists, health advocates, field workers and thousands of leprosy-affected people as the beneficiaries.
Dr Erwin Cooreman
is the Team Leader of WHO's Global Leprosy
Programme. This week, he is in Dhaka to attend the National Conference on Leprosy, which was inaugurated by the prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina. In her speech, she reiterated her commitment to make the country Zero-Leprosy by 2030.
When Feroza Begum was first diagnosed with leprosy in 2006, it felt as though she had been struck by a thunderbolt due to the deep-seated prejudice in her society that the disease is a curse from Allah (God).
The Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, Yohei Sasakawa is passionate about ensuring the world does not forget Leprosy and reminding us of the discrimination that people living with Leprosy still face. Sasakawa who is also a WHO Goodwill Ambassador is in Bangladesh where his Foundation held the first-ever meeting of organizations working in the leprosy field.
Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, Yohei Sasakawa, has assured Bangladesh of continuing support for the Zero Leprosy Initiative announced by the country's Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, aimed at eliminating leprosy by 2030.
Sandhya Mandal has never felt so vindicated. For the past four years, the 36-year-old community health worker from Meherpur – a rural district bordering India – has been traveling 50 km every day along dusty roads on an old motorbike, searching for leprosy patients who needed urgent treatment. But in her community, instead of compliments, neighbours and relatives raised questions about her work and her character. “They ask why I come home so late and what is this ‘work’ that I really do. Some even imply that I might be doing something like prostitution,” Mandal tells IPS.
In the light of limited access to education for displaced Rohingya children, the Nippon Foundation has announced US$ 2 million support to BRAC to launch a project to ensure educational facilities to both Rohingya and local community children.
Despite its efforts to eliminate leprosy as a public health threat, Bangladesh's leprosy burden ranks fourth-highest in the world. Four thousand new cases are detected annually – an average of 11 to 12 cases per day over the last 10 years.
Leprosy is not a curse but should be detected and treated early, Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, has told delegates at a gathering in her country's capital to discuss the elimination of the disease.
Despite having remarkable success in leprosy control in the last decades, the Bangladesh government is now moving forward with a vision to build a leprosy- free country.