Turning life round for the better

Sri Lanka is among the countries with the highest number of newly discovered cases of leprosy, with around 2,000 new cases reported every year. The relatively high number of affected individuals is an indication of the health threat faced by the population. Against this backdrop, the new project from FAIRMED is supporting the fight against leprosy in Sri Lanka.

With around 2000 newly diagnosed cases every year Sri Lanka is among the countries with the highest number of newly reported cases.

On the island state of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, the skin disorder leprosy, which counts among the neglected tropical diseases, remains widespread. In the poor communities in particular, there is a serious risk of infection. However, the local health structures are struggling to cope with the high number of sufferers. The reasons for this are a lack of funding and the occurrence of other diseases such as dengue fever, which generally receive more attention. “Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, Sri Lanka is home to a large number of leprosy sufferers with visible disabilities, but the health authorities do little. Furthermore, the victims rarely seek medical attention,” regrets Nayani Suriyarachchi, Country Manager in Sri Lanka.

Long-term effectiveness is key

Over the next four years, the new leprosy project will strengthen the capacities of the existing health care system. FAIRMED is working with regional health authorities to actively identify affected individuals and provide these with the quickest possible treatment, as well as prevent patients from stopping their treatment. “We will go from school to school and from house to house. We will set up mobile clinics and health centres, with the aim of finding and treating as many people as possible,” reports Suriyarachchi resolutely. The emphasis of the project is on long-term effectiveness, and includes poster campaigns, training and further education for health workers, as well as regular meetings with representatives of communities and institutions. Suriyarachchi has high hopes for the project: “We are faced with a great challenge. There is much more to be done until we can finally say that leprosy has been eliminated. Despite this, I am confident that we can join forces to change the lives of those affected for the better.”