At the start of the 21st century, leprosy was declared eliminated as a public health problem in Papua New Guinea. This meant less than 1 new case of leprosy per 10,000 people.
But leprosy has not gone away. In fact, leprosy is on the rise in PNG.
Let’s take a look at some of statistics from the World Health Organisation.
In 2012, there were 276 new cases of leprosy. That has nearly doubled in the next five years to 583 new cases in 2017. This is the highest number of new leprosy cases in PNG in a decade.
Almost one third of those new cases are children. Some are as young as five.
This is particularly concerning as it means that leprosy is still transmitting in the community.
Your help is urgently needed to detect leprosy – before it leads to permanent disabilities in young children.
When leprosy achieved ‘elimination’ status in 2000, government attention turned to other health priorities such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
But the number of new leprosy cases has silently climbed up in recent years – and more and more children are at risk of contracting leprosy.
To cure leprosy, you have to complete a full course of Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT), which usually takes around 12 months. Failure to finish a course of MDT can lead to drug resistance and the leprosy can come back again.
PNG has one of the lowest MDT completion rates in the world, with only 44% of people diagnosed with leprosy finishing their course.
One of the reasons for this is that many people who are affected by leprosy can’t afford to travel to a clinic on a regular basis. At least 80% of PNG’s population live in rural and remote areas, where you need to travel long distances just to access medical care.
The mountainous terrain in PNG is also problematic as there are few roads outside the city, with many people forced to travel by foot or by boat.
The barriers to economic empowerment are particularly high for people affected by leprosy. The combination of high unemployment rates across PNG, along with stigma and discrimination, traps many in a cycle of poverty.
Your support is so important in not only treating leprosy, but also helping people affected by leprosy become economically independent.
The Leprosy Mission is the only leprosy partner in PNG who works with the Ministry of Health to detect leprosy.
If leprosy is left untreated, young children are at risk of nerve damage, which could lead to lifelong disabilities.
Just $45 can help screen a child for leprosy. Once properly diagnosed they can start Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT) as soon as possible to help prevent disability.
You can provide a miracle of hope and healing to children in PNG this Easter. Give now – www.leprosymission.org.au/PNG