Rome (AsiaNews) About 14 million people suffer from leprosy one way or another: infection, deformities or social rejection.
In 14 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America it is still considered a public health problem.
According to the latest information released by the World Health Organisation, in 2003 there were 455,792 leprosy patients under medical care in the world, 310,090 in Asia. In the same year however 513,798 new cases were declared, 409,090 in Asia.
In a ten-year study published by the Leprosy Review in 2002, the goal of less than one sufferer per 10,000 people in the world was met in 2001. Furthermore, the number of countries in which leprosy was a public health problem dropped from 122 in 1985 to 14 in 2002. Never the less, that leaves six million people with the physical and social consequences of the disease whilst three million are living with all sorts of leprosy-related disabilities.
Together India, Brazil, India, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar and Nepal account for 90 per cent of the prevalence of the disease in the world in 2002. India is hardest-hit with about 70 per cent of the world's registered leprosy patients: 2.5 sufferers per 100,000.
The Church is strongly committed to helping leprosy sufferers. Catholic organisations manage more than 800 leprosy care centres, 349 in Asia, for a total of 817,321 patients. The greatest number is in India (263) followed by Senegal (116) and Brazil (43). (LF)