This Diwali, the Hindu Council UK is supporting a campaign by the UK-based International Charity Lepra, to help people affected by Leprosy in India.
We urge all Hindu Temples, Hindu Organisations and Individuals to help make a difference this Diwali.
A donation of just £4 could train a village doctor to recognise the symptoms of leprosy to prevent misdiagnosis.
You can support people affected by leprosy this Diwali by donating to Lepra’s Diwali appeal:
“Diwali is a time for dana and throughout this festive period you can help to light up the life of somebody affected by leprosy”
Your gift this Diwali will help to give warmth and hope to somebody affected by leprosy – bringing them out of the shadows and into the light.
Together, with your help, we will beat leprosy.
In India, the number of people affected by leprosy has risen to a 10 year high.
These people urgently need your help as many have been forced to live their lives in the shadows – tainted by darkness.
The first symptom is a numb patch of skin which can lead to life-changing disability and blindness. There is a cure, but sadly, over 3 million people are living with undiagnosed leprosy.
Many people do not understand their symptoms and are often issued with the wrong treatment, as many medical professionals do not recognise the disease either – leaving their condition to worsen.
Sadly, the disease doesn’t stop at physical disability.
1 in 2 people affected by leprosy experience depression or anxiety, due to painful emotional trauma caused by the prejudice of others. Many are cast out of their communities and left alone – isolated from their loved ones.
This has devastating consequences. Children’s futures are left in tatters and adults face financial ruin as they are unable to work – pushing them deeper into poverty.
Leprosy – the hidden disease of India:
Leprosy is a disease that many people believe to no longer be a public health concern and that it was eradicated a long time ago – even in India – a country which today carries over 60% of the world’s leprosy burden.
It’s most prevalent in the developing world, where living conditions are poor and people struggle to access sufficient healthcare. Specifically in India, cases are at their highest since 2007, with 135,485 new reported cases in 2016. However, despite this number, across the world, there are believed to be over 3 million unreported cases of leprosy.
The early symptoms start with an anaesthetised patch on the skin, which then leads to ulceration, muscle paralysis, disability and blindness.
The disease doesn’t just stop at disability and experts believe that 1 in 2 people affected by leprosy experience depression or anxiety. This can be due to historical stigma based on misunderstanding and karmic beliefs and many people face abuse and are often cast out of their communities – even by their own families as a consequence.
Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy and if found and treated within the early stages, patients are expected to recover and live a disability-free life.
However, there are many barriers which prevent people from accessing treatment, as many do not recognise their symptoms – including a significant number of medical professionals. This has led to a high number of misdiagnosis, with people’s conditions deteriorating the longer they’re left.
UK-based, international charity Lepra work in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkand, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Telangana to find, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate people affected by leprosy.
Sunita is 15 years old and lives in the Pannala AlirajpurDistrict of Madhya Pradesh. She noticed her first symptoms of leprosy when she accidentally cut her little finger – but did not feel any pain. She was given some herbal remedies, however, because it was the wrong treatment, her symptoms worsened and her hands began to stiffen and claw.
Sunita says that she experienced stigma from her friends and family:
“I felt so alone at school, nobody wanted to play with me and I used to sit and cry by myself. My brother wouldn’t even allow me to go into the kitchen or touch plates or glasses because he was worried he would catch the disease.”
Sunita eventually had to drop out of school as leprosy left her unable to keep up with her studies.
Determined to seek help, her father sought a second diagnosis and Sunita was diagnosed and treated for leprosy. She is currently receiving physiotherapy and reconstructive therapy at one of Lepra’s rehabilitation centres to restore the appearance and movement of her hand.
Geoff Prescott, Chief Executive of Lepra comments about how the charity works to actively screen households and communities: “A key method to find cases of undiagnosed leprosy is with active case finding, where households and communities across high endemic areas are screened with the aim to find people prior to disability developing.
The quality and thoroughness of active case finding is dependent on the strength of government detection programmes. In many countries, resources can be sparse and priorities can be elsewhere which means that government led active case finding is not always carried out to its fullest capacity. As a consequence, many cases are missed; they remain untreated and fall off official global health records.
To gain an accurate measurement of the numbers of people affected by leprosy, more work needs to be done to establish uniformity of active case finding methods, reinstate partnerships between governments and non-governmental organisation and for all activities to be carried out on a much greater scale.”
Readers can support people affected by leprosy this Diwali by donating to Lepra’s Diwali appeal:
We are a UK-based international charity working to beat leprosy.
This disease affects millions of the most vulnerable people in the world, causing life-changing disabilities and attracting terrible stigma. But there is a cure.
We work directly with communities in Bangladesh, India and Mozambique to find, diagnose, treat and rehabilitate people affected by leprosy.
By raising awareness, pushing for early detection and supporting people living with disabilities caused by leprosy, we are working towards a day when this disease no longer destroys lives. With your support we can help more people and reach this day sooner.
Diseases like leprosy and LF are both a consequence and a cause of poverty. We support people to improve their lives so that they can overcome disease and escape this cycle of poverty.
Our custom-made shoes protect the feet of people affected by leprosy and lymphatic filariasis so that they can walk to work. This means that they can be self-sufficient and support their families.
Our in-country teams visit communities to screen people for leprosy and provide access to the cure, helping us to reach more people earlier and provide treatment before disability sets in.
The stigma surrounding leprosy and LF means that people are shunned and isolated, so health education and raising awareness about these diseases is also an essential part of our work.
Visit lepra.org.uk to find out more about our work.
-Hindu Council UK