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Has Covid-19 changed our target of zero leprosy transmission by 2035?

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An article by Brent Morgan, International Director of The Leprosy Mission

About a year ago,I wrote about why I believe we can end the transmission of leprosy by 2035. It was one of our most read blogs of 2020, with hundreds of people reading about how we can reach a world where no one is ever diagnosed with leprosy again. But a lot has changed since then. Are we still on course to achieve our goal of zero transmission by 2035? In short, yes.

Leprosy is not a disease that spreads quickly

The pandemic has had an impact on our efforts to end leprosy transmission. Because of lockdowns and travel restrictions, many persons with leprosy symptoms have been unable to see doctors, receive diagnoses, or be placed on medication. This means that there are cases of leprosy that have gone untreated and the disease is spreading in communities as a result.

The good news is that leprosy is a very slow-moving disease and, although this interruption is far from ideal, we know that we can find and treat these new cases when travel restrictions are lifted. There will be an increase in transmission, but it will be manageable.

Our teams have pushed through the pandemic to find new ways to make a difference

Although the pandemic has brought challenges for our work, The Leprosy Mission’s teams across the world have been finding new and innovative ways of making a difference. By using the latest digital technologies since the start of the pandemic, our teams are reaching and supporting people faster and more efficiently than they have in the past.

This means that we have new tools in our toolbox to add to the many I spoke about last year. This is going to be a big advantage for us in the years leading up to 2035.

There is an increased awareness of how to prevent disease

In 2020, we all learnt a lot about how to prevent the spread of diseases. While we all wish that hadn’t been necessary, we can at least use it to our advantage. A greater awareness of hand washing and sanitation will be helpful in our efforts to defeat leprosy, which is a disease that thrives in unsanitary conditions.

Our resources have not diminished

As economies across the world shrank in 2020, we feared for what this would mean for our funding. Thankfully, our funding has remained fairly stable through this challenging period. We have suffered losses, but nothing too serious. Thanks to this support from our loyal supporters, reduced funding is not going to stop us reaching our goal.

The last year has actually shown us just how much we can achieve with the right resources. In just one year, we have developed vaccines for a new and deadly virus and are now rolling them out to people across the globe. Imagine what we could do for the millions of people who are suffering the consequences of leprosy all over the world if we had the right resources! You can play a part in that today.

Partnership has not stopped in the last year

Last year, I wrote about the value of partnership. We know that we will not defeat leprosy on our own. The good news is that, even though we could not travel to see each other in 2020, our partnerships have stayed strong and we continue to work together towards our joint goal of zero leprosy. The global pandemic has not been enough to change that fact.

We have faith

I finished my article last year with a note about faith. We are a faith-based organisation and we believe that God will provide what we need to finish the work that Jesus started. My faith has not changed: God is with us and working through us.

To close, an amendment to my closing line of last year: Friends, we are the generation that will bring an end to the oldest disease known to man. We are going to have a great reason to celebrate in 15 14 years.

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