Rajni Kant Singh is frustrated. Leprosy was declared "eliminated" in India in 2005, however he still sees new leprosy infections in the state of Bihar, India, where we works.
“We have not achieved elimination. We have achieved elimination on paper, not on the ground. Still new cases are coming, many new cases are coming. Each day.”
For a country to declare leprosy eliminated, there has to be a prevalance of less than one leprosy patient in every 10,000 individuals. He explains that international funding slowed since the annoucement, even though there is still a lot of work to be done.
Singh is the Bihar State Coordinator for a group called Lepra. The charity works to help leprosy patients access treatment, raise awareness around stigma, as well as carry out various initiatives to aid the community affected by leprosy, such as providing supportive shoes.
Singh has been working with leprosy patients for more than 20 years. After graduating with a science degree, Singh studied law for a year before his mother encouraged him to help those still suffering from leprosy in his community in 1992.
One of the biggest obstacles in managing leprosy is the stigma associated with the disease, which prevents those infected from coming forward until the disease has already caused significant damage.
"The problem with leprosy, because it’s so stigmatised, that when people have one patch and they know they have leprosy, they will cover the patch. And that makes it worse for them. One patch becomes two patches, more patches, nerve involvement and then disability," explains Singh.
Despite the obstacles they face, Singh is still passionate about his work.
"We are satisfied. When I go to bed at night, I have very good sleep. So I can say I get satisfaction from working with this disease."
Lifelines: The Quest for Global Health profiles the extraordinary work of global health workers in their quest to rid the world of the deadly neglected diseases and conditions that keep millions of people in poverty.
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Source: Al Jazeera