India is a diverse and intriguing country with a population of over 1.2 billion.
It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, yet, ironically, still contains the largest
concentration of poor people, with a rate of malnutrition among children almost five times more than that of China, and twice that of Sub-Saharan Africa.
India has about 70% of all leprosy patients worldwide. TLM’s work started in India in 1874, and it remains a key area for the Mission, with over 50% of resources being channelled there. In recent years, TLM has become more holistic in its approach to care for people affected by leprosy. This includes not only healthcare, but education, rehabilitation and vocational training.
TLM runs 18 hospitals in India, which provide general medical services, as well as specialist leprosy care and referral services.
TLMA partners with The Leprosy Mission Trust India (TLMTI) in its work.
The Disability Rights Project
This project aims to work with the Indian Government, communities, and other development organisations in India to advocate for the rights of people affected by leprosy and general disability.
The aim of this project is that people with disabilities are able to claim their rights in terms of employment, education, health care, and community participation.
In January to June, 2013, 58 people with disabilities were provided with assistive devices (e.g. wheelchairs, crutches), and 173 people were assisted in accessing a physically handicapped pension. 105 self-advocacy groups were formed in different villages. These groups educate people with disabilities about their rights, and help provide them with a voice in their communities.
Lessons learned in this project so far...
An evaluation of the Disability Rights Project was conducted in late 2012. Some key lessons learned from this evaluation were as follows:
- The project has made good progress in terms of people with disabilities accessing government schemes. However, there is a need to take conscious efforts to bring about attitude change among government officials. This will ensure long-term, systemic change.
- Awareness was created in the community and among persons with disability about the existence of legal system and welfare schemes pertinent to people affected by leprosy and those with disabilities. This has created greater demand for the people to access their entitlements from the local government and other departments.
- The role of Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) is very crucial in project implementation and sustainability. DPOs have to take the responsibilities of addressing the issues of people affected by Leprosy and disabilities. Building their capacities is vital to ensure the activities of the project will be sustained in the long run.
The goal of this project is to train people affected by leprosy (including the children of parents affected by leprosy) and general disability in practical vocational skills so that they are able to obtain employment and independently support their families.
Vocations include: motor mechanics, tailors, and electricians.
Between January and June 2013, the Vadathorasalur VTC has been training 140 students. 11 of these students have leprosy, seven have general disability, 84 are the children of parents affected by leprosy, and 38 are poor people from the general community.
These hospitals provide much needed medical care to people affected by leprosy, including Multi Drug Therapy (MDT), reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation, and ulcer care. As well as leprosy treatment, the hospitals provide general medical services to the wider community.
In January to June 2013, the combined efforts of these two hospitals saw more than 20,000 people treated for leprosy and general health conditions, 1,023 people affected by leprosy provided with counselling, and 73 people receive reconstructive surgery for leprosy impairments.