Today marks the 59th anniversary of a day dedicated to raising leprosy awareness and funds to help give those affected the treatment they need. Over 100 countries worldwide use this day to reaffirm their concern for those affected and recommit themselves to doing something to make a difference. Some churches offer a special service to mark the occasion.
World leprosy day is celebrated on the last Sunday in January, near to the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, a man who was renowned for showing great concern for those affected by leprosy.
Leprosy can have damaging effects on health and livelihoods of those affected. Many sufferers have psychological troubles to accompany their physical impairments of skin sores and nerve damage. Bullied over the way they look is not uncommon, because people do not understand what leprosy is or what the sufferers go through.
Leprosy has been eliminated in most countries according to the definition set down by WHO. But, in practical terms, if one in 10,000 people in India has leprosy, a lot of people are still affected in a country with over a billion residents. According to Lepra, someone is diagnosed with leprosy every two minutes.
NGOs and charities which are leading the campaign for support and aid for these people, many of whom are in developing countries, rely on donations in order to increase the work they do raising the profile of debilitating illnesses like leprosy.
To mark the occassion, the president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Healthcare workers said: “it is necessary to support the free distribution of medicines and necessary treatments, timely diagnosis, and consistent therapy.” He went on to say that despite efforts to reduce the prevalence of leprosy, its complete eradication was still far off, quoting WHO figures of 200,00 new cases last year. He also said he was “looking forward” to the transformation of leprosy from a threat to a memory “however frightening”.
The President of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations, a group of autonomous anti-leprosy NGOs, said: “On the occasion of World Leprosy Day, we renew our commitment to ensuring that all persons affected by leprosy have access to the necessary treatment, rehabilitation and care, without prejudice and stigma, in a world where all human beings have the right to live their lives with dignity. “A World without Leprosy” remains the vision of all partners”
Leprosy was covered in detail in a recent post; including its treatments, how it affects sufferers, and where we are in terms of the WHO goals to eliminate it.
Here are some interesting leprosy-related links:
– Leprosy Myth Busters from Lepra
– Message from the President of ILEP on Leprosy Day 2012 from ILEP
Picture from: American Leprosy Missions