KARACHI - The Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre (MALC) has been working for elimination of leprosy, TB and blindness from Pakistan for the last 65 years.

More than 57,000 leprosy patients have received free of cost treatment at 157 MALC Leprosy Centres located throughout Pakistan. Every year 300 new cases are registered.

According to WHO’s strategy for 2016 – 2020, three targets have been set -- Zero Transmission, Zero Disability in girls and boys, Zero Discrimination. There is need to work hard to achieve these targets so that leprosy can be eradicated.

These views were expressed by experts Mervyn Lobo, chief executive officer of MALC; Dr Ali Murtaza, member of the Executive Council; Dr Mutaher Zia, leprosy specialist and Savio Pereira, director of human resources and administration, at a press briefing as part of the World Leprosy Day 2018.

The press briefing was followed by inauguration of Dr Ruth Pfau Museum at MALC Head Office, showcasing her belongings, awards, publications and rare pictures. This museum will be associated with the MALC Training Department and will be open for all educational institutes so that students know more about her contribution to Pakistan.

Dr Ali Murtaza and Dr Mutaher Zia said it seemed leprosy was prevalent even today. Due to slow and variable incubation period, they said, services have to be kept up for three to four decades. This year 531 leprosy patients are under treatment and on medication. It is important to mention here though there has been a decline in new cases after leprosy control but at a very slow pace.

After control of leprosy in 1996, so far MALC has achieved the targets as per standards developed by the WHO. The latest updates, according to WHO’s standards, show 0.19 per cent new cases, 0.12 per cent disability ratio among them and 7 per cent children among those affected.

Leprosy control does not mean that it has been eradicated despite all achievements. There are still many cases which can infect others. They need to be found at the earliest so that they can be treated to stop further spread of the disease. Apart from this, disability ratio is still 6 per cent in children that is also an alarming situation, they added.

They said that after leprosy control, in order to continue surveillance and ensure leprosy services in the field, additional disciplines were added like Tuberculosis and Blindness Control, Maternal Child Healthcare and Community Based Inclusive Development (CBID) programmes to tackle the situation. “We feel privileged to acknowledge the support of the federal and provincial governments along with our corporate partners and international partners for the cause,” a speaker said.

“So far, MALC has registered 202,222 TB patients, among them over 87,000 are sputum positive who can spread the disease. They are now leading a healthy life. Likewise, we have facilitated 200,000 eye patients free of charge. Among them, 4,000 cataract surgeries were also performed through our base hospitals and surgical eye camps. Every year, more than 100,000 children are screened for refractive errors and vitamin A capsules are given to those who have deficiency,” he said.

“We have also initiated Community Based Inclusive Development programme for last three years along with Mother and Child Health Care programme in the selected project areas. All of the services provided through MALC are Free of Charge,” he said.

Lobo said that MALC has been working to eliminate leprosy from Pakistan for last 60 years. Like every year this year as well MALC has arranged a series of events to raise awareness about Leprosy. Besides this to share our achievements mainly to keep Leprosy under control and to spread the key message that Leprosy is not a curse, it is a treatable disease like any other disease. Every year, around the globe, World Leprosy Day is celebrated on the last Sunday. This day is commemorated to refresh the world to pledge alliance with people affected by Leprosy. No disease in the modern world has faced stigma of equal nature as Leprosy.

He was of the view that year 2017 was a sad year for MALC and whole nation as we lost the person behind Leprosy Control Program Ruth Pfau- Founding member of MALC. She devoted 57 years of her life for the cause and passed away at the age of 87. In order to preserve her fond memories MALC’s management has converted her humble abode in to a museum showcasing her belongings, awards, publications and some rare priceless pictures.