"Leprosy no longer public health threat in Timor-Leste"

child with leprosy

child with leprosy

Leprosy, a chronic disease once endemic in South East Asia, has been largely eliminated from Timor-Leste.

The disease has caused the disfigurement of millions of people mainly in the developing world.

The news was officially broken by the Timorese President José Ramos Horta, and confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO).   Joyce De Pina reports.

De Pina: This is a double victory because technically the region can also be considered free from leprosy from now on. José Ramos Horta, Timor-Leste’s president, made the declaration on 23rd March:

“I have the honour to declare the elimination of Leprosy as a public health issue.”

De Pina:  It took Timor-Leste eight years to fully implement a successful anti-Leprosy programme.
For the World Health organization, this is quite an achievement. The WHO is in charge of the free distribution of the multi-drug therapy (MDT) used to fight the disease.

Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, WHO Deputy regional Director for South East Asia, has only praise for the local government.

“This is a very significant achievement for the country and congratulations are due to the country for this continued and consistent efforts that they have been making towards the elimination of Leprosy.”

De Pina:  There were 491 cases of Leprosy per 10,000 habitants registered in 2004 in Timor-Leste.

Last year, these figures dropped dramatically to less than one case per 10,000 habitants – which is what it takes to consider the country free from the Leprosy threat. But there are still pockets of the disease in Timor-Leste. However, the fact that the incubation period for the disease can reach up to five years, has led some experts to fear hidden cases.

But the country’s authorities are confident they are fully prepared to face the challenge. Its medical personnel are being trained for early detection and treatment of the disease.

WHO’s objective is to eliminate Leprosy as a public health problem worldwide in 2015. Thanks to Timor-Leste, the South East Asia region is no longer part of the list.

Duration: 1’55″
Source: UNMIT Radio

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