TANZANIA has recorded dramatic reduction of new leprosy cases over the past five years, consolidating further its disease elimination status which it reached in 2006 as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) requirements and criteria.
Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ms Ummy Mwalimu said yesterday that efforts undertaken by the government have reduced new infections from 43 patients in every 1million people in 2014 to 26 in every 1 million people in 2019.
She said that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Tanzania has attained leprosy elimination level as disease is no longer a public health problem and the country has less than ten patients in every 100,000 people according to 2006 statistics.
"According to 2019 statistics, the number of leprosy patients has dropped from 4.3 in every 100,000 people in 2014 to 3 in 100,000 in 2019," Minister Mwalimu said.
Ms Mwalimu was speaking in Dodoma yesterday during her tour of Msamalia Village in Hombolo Elders Centre which was used to host leprosy patients ahead of the World Leprosy Day which is marked today (January 26).
She said leprosy infection to children has also decreased by around 41 per cent as reports indicate that in 2014 there were 90 children who were suffering from the disease but by last year the number dropped to 53.
"By last year all regions in the country except Lindi had already attained leprosy elimination level but there are 16 district councils which are yet to attain the required level of registered prevalence of less than 1 case per 10 000 population," the minister said.
She named the councils which have continued to register more than one patient in every 10,000 people as Lindi, Liwale, Nachingwea, Ruangwa, Masasi, Nanyumbu, Morogoro, Mvomero, Mpanda, Nkasi, Kibaha, Mkinga, Tunduma and Shinyanga and Kigoma municipalities.
Minister Mwalimu, however, directed regions and district councils to set aside budgets for conducting awareness campaigns to identify new patients and put them on medication.
She said that this year's commemoration emphasizes respect for the rights and dignity of people affected by leprosy by fighting against stigma and discrimination.
"Most of the people affected by this disease are being stigmatised and discriminated because statistics indicate that 50 per cent of the patients face depression and anxiety ... this situation is highly caused by public perception towards the disease," Ms Mwalimu said.
She called upon the public to refrain from associating leprosy with factors such as heredity and witchcraft because the situation has delayed treatment, thereby causing disabilities to the patients.
Ms Mwalimu said the commemoration of the World Leprosy Day aimed at raising awareness of the disease and intensify efforts towards its full eradication.