The minister revealed this situation at Nunge centre for destitute people in Dar es Salaam, in what she described as a campaign to remind the Tanzanian public about leprosy affliction towards the International Leprosy Day.
She said that it is evident that leprosy is feared in the society from time immemorial, mainly due to the fact that it causes permanent disability and make victims becoming dependent and with no work ability.
“The World Leprosy Day gives us an opportunity to assess the direction of our efforts in the country and internationally in the fight against this disease. Now we have observed that at least 50 percent of leprosy patients suffer from depression.
“Leprosy patients have been stigmatized and discriminated in many areas of society. Most of them live in sadness and great concern. All this is caused by the negative attitude of the community against sufferers from leprosy,” she said.
The negative attitude is a major obstacle in the battle to eradicate leprosy in the country and the world at large, thus it needs governments, stakeholders and all citizens to join hands and strengthen the fight against stigmatization and discrimination, she said.
Although the country had reached the national strategy to eradicate leprosy spread in 2006 with a minimum number of one patient per 10,000 people, still the diseases remains a public health problem among communities.
“Data from the National Program of Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control (NTLP) report for 2017 shows that a total of 1,933 new cases were diagnosed and thus make the rate of four patients per 100,000 people,” the minister noted.
“These figures put Tanzania among 22 countries with a large number of leprosy patients. Other countries include India, Indonesia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nigeria and DR Congo,” she told the gathering.
Currently there are 10 regions in the country which identify new leprosy patients each year and contribute nearly 80 percent of all patient, she said, listing them as Lindi, Rukwa, Mtwara, Morogoro, Coast, Tanga, Geita, Dodoma, Tabora and Kigoma.
The ministry in collaboration with the President’s Office (Regional Administration and Local Governments) was implementing various health strategies to ensure leprosy is completely eradicated, she affirmed.
“We ensure that drugs to treat leprosy are supplied free of charge, conducting leprosy elimination campaigns by involving service providers in the community to identify new patients and giving education to the community about symptoms of leprosy,” Mwalimu elaborated.
NTLP describes leprosy as a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae) and mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves and mucous membranes.
It affects people of all races, ages and both sexes, similar to tuberculosis, leprosy bacilli are mainly transmitted through infectious droplets that are spread by an infectious individual through coughing and sneezing.