New Delhi: Aiming a "world free of leprosy" by 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday launched a global strategy to combat the disease, a move critical for India which is among the three countries that account for more than 80 percent of newly diagnosed leprosy cases.
WHO called for stronger commitments and accelerated efforts to stop disease transmission and end associated discrimination and stigma to achieve a "world free of leprosy".
"The new global strategy is guided by the principles of initiating action, ensuring accountability and promoting inclusivity. These principles must be embedded in all aspects of leprosy control efforts.
"A strategy can only be as good as its implementation," Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region, said at the launch of the global strategy for 'Accelerating Towards a Leprosy-free-world' here.
"The strategy aims to, by 2020, reduce to zero the number of children diagnosed with leprosy and related physical deformities, reduce the rate of newly diagnosed leprosy patients with visible deformities to less than one per million.
"...And ensure that all legislations that allow for discrimination on the basis of leprosy is overturned," the global health body said in a statement.
WHO said out of the 2,13,899 new leprosy cases in 2014, 94 percent were reported from 13 countries -– Bangladesh, Brazil, Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Madagascar, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Tanzania.
"India, Brazil and Indonesia account for 81 per cent of the newly diagnosed and reported cases globally," WHO said.
It said several key interventions needed to achieve the target of detecting cases early before visible disabilities occur, with a special focus on children as a way to reduce disabilities and reduce transmission.
Interventions should also target detection among higher risk groups through campaigns in highly endemic areas or communities and improving health care coverage and access for marginalised population, it said.