East Delhi has maximum concentration of lepers

Figures among 36 districts with five cases per 10,000

Despite leprosy being eliminated as a public health problem from Delhi earlier this year, the National Leprosy Eradication Programme report 2012-2013 shows that the national capital has one district with an annual detection rate of more than five per 10,000 people.

Nationwide, 14 districts were identified with a detection rate equal or more than this. Moreover, east Delhi is one among 36 districts in the country which still has a prevalence rate, which includes old cases, of over five cases per 10,000.

What appears to be most worrying is the fact that between April 2012 and March 2013, only 76.3 per cent of the patients in Delhi were released from treatment within the specified time-frame. Only Daman and Diu with 60 per cent and Tripura with 40 per cent showed poorer performance.

However, experts, working towards eradication of leprosy, blame Delhi’s poor performance on the migrant population receiving treatment here, the stigma attached to the disease and begging as the only recourse for most of these patients.

“Patients come to Delhi for treatment and then move out even before they have fully recovered. Most are shunned from the society, leaving them with begging as the only recourse. Under these conditions, treatment is bound to be discontinued mid-way,” says Dr Vinita Shankar, director of Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation.

She says Delhi has some of the best facilities, doctors and organisations working for these patients.

“The government has been very supportive, even increasing their pension from Rs 800 to Rs 1,800 around three years ago. But providing the patients with an Aadhaar card or some tracking device could help them receive complete treatment,” she says.

Shankar also sees something positive in the high detection rate in the one district.
“Higher detection rate means the efforts to detect patients with leprosy is greater. If the same zeal continues to be shown, we will see a much greater decline in the next three-four years,” says Shankar.

A senior officer with NLEP in Delhi said the higher detection is due to house-to-house surveys and efforts put in by the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers.

The prevalence rate of leprosy in Delhi currently is 0.73 per 10,000, making it at par with the national scenario. According to World Health Organisation, if the cases are less than one per 10,000 population, the disease ceases to be a public health problem.
Official data shows around 1,400 Delhiites to be receiving treatment for leprosy.

Apart from that, around 1,600 patients from other states seek treatment at hospitals in the national capital. Most of the victims live in about 30 colonies, most of which are located in east Delhi.

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