The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, has attributed the prevalence of leprosy in Nigeria, after the country achieved the WHO elimination target in 1998, to pockets of high endemicity in some states.
Mr. Adewole made the remark at a news conference in Umuahia to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the World Leprosy Day Celebration on Friday with the theme: “Zero disability among children affected by leprosy”.
According to him, of 2,892 leprosy cases reported in 2015, nine per cent was made up of children, while victims with “grade II disability” accounted for 15 per cent.
Mr. Adewole explained that leprosy still posed a challenge due to the pockets of high endemicity in some states such as Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Bauchi, Taraba, Niger, Kogi, Ebonyi, Abia, Cross River, Edo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos.
“Of utmost concern is the existence of new leprosy cases that are reported each year among the general population, including children and those with grade 2 disability.”
He recalled that “In 1998, after the introduction of the Multi- Drug Therapy (MDT), Nigeria achieved WHO’S elimination target of less than one case per 10,000 population at the national level, saying lateness in presenting cases at the health care facilities made matters worse.
He noted that the “mistaken beliefs about the disease” being highly contagious, hereditary and heaven’s punishment have negatively affected persons with leprosy even after they are cured.
The minister said that the Federal Government had launched a five-year National Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Strategic Plan (2016-2020) as part of its efforts to eliminate the disease in the endemic states.
“This document facilitates the implementation of appropriate strategies to increase case detection, improve treatment outcome, prevent disabilities and provide rehabilitation services to affected persons,” he said.
He expressed commitment to work with partners so as to ensure effective and sustained leprosy control and to achieve a reduction in stigma and discrimination in the country.
He urged the media and civil society organisations to help propagate the message that “leprosy is curable and treatment is free” in addition to public enlightenment against stigmatisation and discrimination.
“What they need is love, understanding and your support,” he said.
Meanwhile, News Agency of Nigeria reports that the 59th National Council on Health meeting in Umuahia, which lasted for four days ended on Friday.