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  • The World Health Organization (WHO) recently urged countries to address gaps in leprosy service. 


  • The World Health Organization (WHO) on World Leprosy Day urged countries, especially those in the Southeast Asia Region, to urgently address gaps in leprosy services disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • WHO asked the countries to accelerate efforts towards achieving the goal of zero leprosy disease, stigma and discrimination — the vision of the WHO Global Leprosy Strategy 2021-2030. 
  • Measures taken by governments to tackle COVID19 pandemic, such as lockdowns and other restrictions, took a heavy toll, particularly on vulnerable communities such as persons affected by leprosy. 
  • Many lost their livelihoods and were unable to access treatment for their disease or its after-effects.
  • Leprosy programs were disrupted which led to a significant drop in new case numbers. The decrease masks the fact that cases are going undetected, which contributes to ongoing transmission of leprosy and risks more people developing disabilities.
  • Concerned by the impact of COVID-19 on leprosy services, in August 2021, I launched the “Don’t Forget Leprosy”/ “Don’t Forget Hansen’s Disease” campaign to ensure that leprosy was not forgotten even amid the pandemic. 
  • The campaign has undertaken many awareness-raising activities in cooperation with a wide range of partners, including the WHO, ministries of health, organisations of persons affected by leprosy, international NGOs, research institutes and universities. 

World Leprosy Day:

  • While countries across the globe mark World Leprosy Day on January 29, India observes it on January 30th every year, coinciding with the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • It was established by the French journalist Raoul Follereau in 1954 to advocate for those affected by the disease. 
  • On January 29, 2023, it was celebrated for the 70th time. This year also sees the 150th anniversary of the discovery of M. leprae, the causative agent of leprosy, by the Norwegian physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen on February 28, 1873.
  • Leprosy, otherwise known as Hansen’s disease, is one of the world’s oldest diseases. Before Dr. Hansen’s discovery that leprosy was caused by a bacterial infection, it was sometimes seen as a divine punishment or a curse.
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