By Moses Masiye
January 06, 2016

Malawi ministry of health has confirmed a resurgence of leprosy, which was believed to have been stamped out in the country in 1970.

Program manager for the Department of Leprosy and Skin Diseases in the Ministry of Health says the disease has been reported in about seven districts as of December 2015.

“We have registered new 629 leprosy cases in the year 2015 just ended, up from 554 cases in 2014,” Mawaya said.

Mawaya said though without figures at hand, Nkhotakota has reported many new cases than other districts of Balaka, Machinga, Mangochi, Salima, Phalombe, and Mzimba.

He said the unfortunate part is that authorities thought the disease was gone and funding was cut.

“The program’s office is financially crippled and it is difficult to do supervision,while the rest of our few officers on the ground, have no means of transport,” Mawaya said.

The infectious skin disease is caused by bacteria and is transmitted via sneezing and coughing, but it is now treatable. The World Health organisation (WHO), recommends a multi-drug regimen that makes patients unable to transmit the infection after just one dose.

Treatment is however reportedly available countrywide.

With delayed treatment, leprosy can be disfiguring and lead to complications like loss of feeling, permanent nerve damage and muscle weakness.

Utale Catholic parish in southern district of Balaka provide food and shelter to over 20 people severely disabled by leprosy.

Reverend Father Dominic Chikankheni at the Parish however complained that they struggle to provide food on daily basis, as patients from different corners of the country still come to their leprosy village.

The ministry of health requires over a Billion Malawi Kwacha to train health workers countrywide, who would ably screen for leprosy in all the health centres.

The amount excludes funds for awareness campaigns in the communities.

According to Mawaya, if leprosy patients are assigned to treatment earlier, there will be slim or zero chances of transmission.

Malawi’s leprosy-free status does not mean the disease was ever totally eliminated.

The World Health Organization defines leprosy-free status as having less than one case per 10,000 people, which Malawi achieved.

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