American Leprosy Missions and ILEP Call for End to Leprosy-Related Disabilities in Children by 2020
- Leprosy is still being transmitted to children
- Children are suffering from lifelong disabilities caused by leprosy
- Proactive, early detection and treatment of leprosy must be an international priority, to prevent leprosy being transmitted to children and disabilities developing
In honor of World Leprosy Day on January 31, 2016, Bill Simmons, president and CEO of American Leprosy Missions, and Jan van Berkel, president of ILEP, the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations, are calling for proactive, early detection of leprosy to prevent the transmission of leprosy to children and the appalling consequence of children affected by leprosy developing disabilities.
Data from the World Health Organization Weekly Epidemiological Record show that in 2014, the proportion of children with leprosy of all new reported cases was 8.8%. In other words, 52 children a day were diagnosed with leprosy. Newly diagnosed leprosy in children indicates recent and continued transmission of infection in a community.
Grade 2 disabilities (G2D) in leprosy are visible disabilities, damage to hands and feet and severe eyesight impairment. The proportion of all new patients with leprosy reported with G2D in 2014 was 6.6%, higher than in previous years. New patients with G2D indicate late detection of leprosy and a lack of awareness of the early signs of leprosy. The large number of people with G2D also illustrates the lack of capacity of healthcare systems to recognize and treat leprosy before the development of disabilities.
Bill Simmons says, “In a world where leprosy can be cured, it is unacceptable that children are still being infected by leprosy and worse, developing disabilities as a result of the lack of diagnosis and treatment.” He adds, “We must not allow the early detection of leprosy to stagnate and for children to suffer in this way. Proactive, early diagnosis and treatment of leprosy must remain an international and national priority, to prevent leprosy being transmitted to children and disabilities from developing.”
About American Leprosy Missions
American Leprosy Missions, based in Greenville, South Carolina, is the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases. It supports projects and partners in countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. Since its founding in 1906, American Leprosy Missions has provided holistic care to more than four million people around the world including medical treatment and training, community development and vaccine research.
About ILEP (The International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations)
Founded in 1966, ILEP is a federation of 14 international non-governmental organizations. It also supports a technical commission of world experts on leprosy. ILEP’s members coordinate their work in 63 countries where they spend $60 million on 700 projects and $2.5 million per year on leprosy research. Members work with more than half a million people affected by leprosy, alongside the World Health Organization, Novartis (which provides anti-leprosy drugs for free), The Nippon Foundation and other philanthropic trusts, NGOs, governments and the support of some 500,000 individual donors.
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