Leprosy is a bacterial disease that destroys the peripheral and motor nerves. It is not hereditary and is the least contagious of all communicable diseases. When left untreated, leprosy can lead to a painful inflammation of the kidneys, the loss of feeling in extremities, deformity and blindness. Physical injury and impairment of circulation results in muscular atrophy, absorption of cartilage, chronic infections, fevers and eroding ulcers.
Leprosy is curable with multi-drug therapy. Patients becomes non-infectious after a single dose and are normally cured within 6 to 12 months. However, leprosy bacilli are slow to die and can continue to cause inflammation long after the patient is declared 'cured', resulting in further nerve damage and the loss of sight.
With still no vaccine, one person is officially diagnosed with leprosy every fifty seconds, making some 2,000 new cases every day, and some 600,000 every year.
The World Health Organisation estimates that, between 2010 and 2020, a further 7.5 million people will be infected. The Leprosy Mission estimates that some 1,100,000 people are presently disabled by leprosy.
60% of today’s new cases are on the Indian subcontinent. Brazil comes next with just 6%, followed by Nepal and Indonesia at 2%. It is calculated that at least some 2.5 million people affected by leprosy in India still await the most basic medical care.
The greatest problem for those diagnosed with leprosy is the social ostracisation they and their families suffer. This leads to extreme poverty and hardship. Sufferers are often being driven from their homes and out of their communities. There is therefore great fear associated with coming forwards for diagnosis or treatment, hence the enduring prevalence of the disease, despite international efforts to eradicate it.
People who bear the stigma of the disease are invariably reduced to living in isolated communities, within slums and often with no means of survival, except by begging.
In addition, in India the children of parents who have suffered with leprosy, even when they themselves are in perfect health, are commonly denied access to state education.
Those affected by leprosy are the principal focus Sarva’s projects. Our aim is to restore the self-confidence, dignity and some level of sustainable self-sufficiency for individuals and communities alike, primarily by setting up and supporting them in their own continuing medical care; and by providing educational opportunities, in addition to the human contact and compassionate attention they sorely lack.
Help us to make a real difference. All contributions have a direct impact on the quality of someone else's life - on the level of their pain, on the extent of their isolation, and on the opportunity for them to change the course of their lives in ways they could not have previously dared to believe.