Leprosy resurgence: Min seeks Rs700-cr for 12th plan





Resurgence of leprosy in various States has left the Union Health Ministry worried. It has now sought funds to the tune of over Rs700 crore in the XIIth Five Year Plan, which is three times higher than that sought in the previous Plan, to upgrade human resource and infrastructure to tackle the disease.

Around 300 endemic districts in 16 States such as Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Odisha have been already identified for focused measures for complete elimination of leprosy, said sources in the Ministry.

This is for the first time since 2005 when the leprosy was declared eliminated that the Ministry has realised the growing threat from the bacillus bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae, causing leprosy.

Data speaks: As many as 1,27,200 fresh cases of leprosy were reported in 2011-12 against 126,800 cases in 2010-11.

Health Minister of State Sudip Bandyopadhyay recently said in Parliament that Uttar Pradesh topped the list with 24,627 cases, followed by Maharashtra with 17,892 cases and Bihar with 17,801. The reason for worry is not without reasons. Out of the 2.1 lakh cases in the world, 55 per cent of the total leprosy is from India.

Senior officials in the Health Ministry attribute  the higher number of cases to the Government’s short-sightedness. Soon after the disease reached  the elimination stage in 2005 (prevalence rate less than one per 10000 population) the over-confident Government integrated leprosy services under the National Leprosy Elimination Programme (NLEP) with the General Health Care system mainly under the National Rural Health Mission.
This led to delay in release of funds from the State NRHM to districts, diversion and shortage of trained staff to identify the disease as has been pointed out in the working group on the Health for the 12th Five year plan.

It notes that by March 2005 only 25 per cent of the erstwhile vertical staff  such as para-medical workers, physio-technician and health educator etc were retained with NLEP and rest of the staff was surrendered to the GHC to work as multi-purpose workers and supervisors.

To run the NLEP at block level, the medical officers are still dependent on the vertical components, which are gradually receding while the GHC staff are overburdened with many other programme works. As a result, to provide one person only for leprosy work is getting difficult. In high endemic districts and block having Annual New Case Detection Rate (ANCDR) higher than 10/100,000 population, due care could not be provided to the persons affected by leprosy, says the report.  (Courtesy: The Pioneer, Delhi )