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Surgery grants for leprosy sufferers in India

Feb 02, 2009

The Indian government will financially help leprosy patients who undergo reconstructive surgery. In a country that reports over 50% of the world's leprosy cases, the sufferers of the disease are widely stigmatised because of their disfigurements.

New Delhi: There's finally some good news for the leper community. The health ministry has decided to give a one-time grant of Rs 5,000 to every leper who undergoes a reconstructive surgery.

This, ministry officials say, will compensate loss of wages during their stay in hospital.

To ensure that the patients visit the hospital for post-operative care, including physiotherapy, on which depends the success rate of the surgery, the ministry has broken the grant amount into three phases - Rs 3,000 after completion of the surgery and release from hospital; Rs 1,000 on the first follow-up visit after one month; and Rs 1,000 more when the patient goes for the follow-up visit after the third month of operation.

Stigmatised

Although there is no vaccine, leprosy is curable with multi-drug therapy (MDT). Within one day of starting MDT, there is no risk of the disease spreading to anyone else.

However, people affected by leprosy are still stigmatised, even after they have been cured, especially if the disease has caused disfigurement or disability.

"So in order to improve their quality of life, we are pushing them to undergo surgery for rectification of disfigurement," said Dr P L Joshi, deputy director-general of National Leprosy Eradication Programme.

India is the world's leprosy capital. Dr Joshi said around 54% of the world's new leprosy cases are reported from India, which has over 700 leper colonies.

"In 2008, over 3,000 lepers underwent surgeries. This year, till now, 1,500 lepers have undergone surgeries. Besides Rs 5,000 to every leper for every surgery as a grant, we are also giving Rs 5,000 to hospitals for free care of these patients," Joshi said.

The National Health Policy, 2002, had set the goal of elimination of leprosy (reduce the number of cases to less than 1/10,000 population) by 2005. India achieved this goal in December 2005, when the recorded Prevalence Rate in the country was 0.95/10,000 population. It has been declining ever since.

The number of institutions providing reconstructive surgery services has been increased by including 20 more institutions. In addition, 32 NGOs are being supported by International Federation of Anti Leprosy Association (ILEP) for conducting reconstructive surgeries.

In another scheme, health workers will be given Rs 100 on a confirmed diagnosis of case brought by them and Rs 200 on completion of treatment and Rs 400 for each multi-bacillary leprosy case.

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