Leprosy And Disability

Persons suffering from leprosy face thousand indignities every day in India

Today, leprosy is among the most debilitating diseases known to mankind. Once diagnosed with leprosy, patients face the long and uphill task of recovering and reintegrating into their community. Employers regularly turn away people who have the disease, even if they have been treated and cured. Often people diagnosed with leprosy hide their condition from their families and loved ones, out of fear that they will be ostracised from the community. Even obtaining legal documents such as a driver’s license, ration card, etc. is still very difficult. Often the disease free children of leprosy patients are shunned by the communities they live in.
Evidence suggests that a staggering number of individuals are at risk of being left behind owing to lack of education or income, burdened by low self-esteem, subject to low expectations and diminished in their ability to pursue their dreams.
Even though India has made great strides against the disease, which is neither highly contagious nor fatal, the number of new cases of leprosy has risen over the past few years.
We tackle the challenge posed by leprosy and related disability in multiple ways namely – reconstructive surgery for persons suffering from leprosy related deformity, facilitating access to medication and treatment (including physiotherapy), up-skilling local Healthcare initiatives.
Reconstructive Surgery
We identify persons suffering from leprosy related deformities through referrals from NGO partners, local government hospitals, Primary Health Care Centres ( PHC’s) and ASHA workers.
Leprosy, related disability disproportionately affects women, children and older people. Persons suffering from leprosy, related disability and persons with disability face widespread barriers to accessing services, and experience significantly poorer health outcomes. Reconstructive surgery is an important part of alleviating the challenges of leprosy as the disease often renders its victims incapacitated owing to nerve damage. Typically, surgical procedures can help correct leprosy deformities in hands and feet, nose reconstruction and saving eyesight for people who can no longer open and close their eyes. Reconstructive surgery not only returns the functions to previously useless hands, feet and eyes, it also restores normality to their appearance. This is very critical for the children and young people we serve as it increases social acceptance of previous leprosy patients in the community, and helps them to perform daily tasks and earn a livelihood.
We also support subsequent physiotherapy and post-operative care for patients who have undergone reconstructive surgery.