Solomon Islands marks World Leprosy Day this week with data showing that Honiara and seven other provinces still have leprosy cases.
MHMS Director TB/Leprosy Program Dr Henry Kako said the global leprosy report shows there are 45 countries with zero leprosy cases since 2012, this happens because their health services have really worked hard.
“Though we have eliminated leprosy around the threshold of 0.75 per 10,000 population of the global target of less than one case per year 10,000 population; we still have a lot of work to do if we are to take down to zero level”, said Dr Kako.
He revealed Solomon Islands between years 2018-2022 recorded total 231 cases.
He explained this gives the country 0.65-0.75 per 10,000 populations as we continue to sustain our elimination target.
“The detection rate of above years was 5.80-6.75 per 100,000 populations”, explained Dr Kako.
He also revealed seven provinces are still reporting cases within that period are; Honiara, Malaita, Guadalcanal, Western, Choiseul, Central and Temotu Provinces.
He stated among the seven provinces reporting cases Honiara City Council, Guadalcanal and Malaita annual reporting cases have been accounted for most reported cases.
However, he said with the availability of leprosy services in most of our clinics in the country and trained staff on leprosy, we should be easily on the path to zero elimination.
“Having the clinics and the resources available at our disposal should not be enough to do more for leprosy like any other disease in actually implementing related activities.
“We should really be engaging communities, volunteer participation in treatment supervision and church involvement in Leprosy awareness. Community should be made aware of the benefits of living healthy life styles, encouraging healthy habits to their population and developing behavioural disease.
“Therefore, the leprosy theme this year is not only relevant globally, but it is also relevant to us locally having some more mile to go to actually end leprosy”, said Dr Kako.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS) together with the World Health Organization on Sunday 29th commemorated World Leprosy Day with the theme; “Act Now: End Leprosy”.
The World Leprosy commemoration day was live-broadcasted on SIBC, with speeches and followed by a talkback show.
Dr Kako speaking on behalf of the MHMS Permanent Secretary highlighted the theme for this year’s world leprosy day “Act Now: End Leprosy”, is not going to be easy as we think, but ending it must be the challenge to all countries in the world that have not yet to reached zero leprosy elimination.
Therefore, Director TB/Leprosy Dr Kako outlined his Division’s following plans are:
- Advocate Discrimination, Stigma and Prejudice associated with leprosy.
- The review of the Leprosy Guideline for the eradication strategy, Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
- To conduct annual leprosy elimination campaigns and special action projects for eradication in hotspot areas-five year period.
- Continuation of training for medical officers, nurses and CBR staff.
- Conduct annual disability assessment among those with disability because of leprosy, to be conducted by Provincial Coordinators with CBR Aides.
- Initiate for local mobilization, emphasizing on Leprosy Health Education awareness and increase providence of IEC Materials.
In addition, some of the objectives of the Leprosy Unit are as follows:
- Application of the Leprosy Chemoprophylaxis (PEP) to all provinces reporting cases last 10 years.
- Detect remaining pockets of leprosy in hotspot areas within the seven provinces currently reporting cases.
- Assess stagnation of the disease in hotspot areas within the seven provinces currently reporting cases.
- Assess stagnation of the disease in hotspot areas to ascertain whether patients placed on MDT take their medication well with coordinated supervision.
- Assess the professional competence on leprosy and rehabilitation of provincial coordinators and community based rehabilitation officers through leprosy awareness programs.
- Encouragement and involvement of peripheral health center nurses on clinical leprosy diagnosis to achieve integrated leprosy elimination activities.
Meanwhile, World Health Organization, TB/Leprosy Officer Ms. Lia Tanabose speaking on behalf of the WHO Country Representative Dr Howard Sobel stated leprosy remains a worldwide public health concern.
Ms Tanabose provided the global data for leprosy revealing that in 2021total of 140,594 news cases were detected globally.
She outlined this includes 9,052 cases in children and 8,492 new cases of abnormality. By the end of 2021 the total leprosy cases worldwide is around 178,000.
“In 2021 31 countries from the Western pacific provided statistics for leprosy disease. New cases detected in 2021 were 2,480 of which 259 were children, 704 were women and 220 were new cases of abnormality.
“For Solomon Islands, according to recently available data, cases have been decreasing over the last three years, this might be because of the impact COVID-19 has on our program implementations and the repurposing of human resources to help control the spread of COVID-19 in the country”, said Tanabose.
However, she added WHO is working side-by-side with the Ministry of Health to rid the country of this debilitating disease.
“We provide support by buying medicines to cure people, provide guidelines and present the global situation so that the country will be informed on recent decisions and actions required as we progress towards leprosy elimination. As the theme for the world leprosy day states “Act Now. End Leprosy”, we must all work together to eliminate leprosy. Achieving zero leprosy means we are a step closer to achieving a healthy future for all”, said Tanabose.