LEPRA UK and Effect Hope, a Canadian global health organisation, have launched Phase 4 of the ‘Proyash’ project, a functional and fully integrated response to leprosy management using a Health System Strengthening (HSS) approach. This will support the achievement of the Bangladesh government’s vision of a leprosy-free country.
The project will be aligned with the WHO Neglected Tropical Diseases Roadmap, the Global Leprosy Strategy, and the work of the National Leprosy Program (NLP) in Bangladesh. The project aims to improve the health of 163,875 people affected by leprosy through three primary means:
- Access to quality health care
- Active case finding
- Increasing the demand for services by people affected and at risk of leprosy
Phase One of the Proyash project commenced in 2013 and since its inception, has strengthened health systems at both a national and a local level. Phase 4 is scheduled to run until 31 March 2025 and will build upon the existing strong relationships, deepening the Government’s commitment to providing health, education, and social support through the creation of sustainable services. It will be delivered in 11 districts of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has been a long-standing priority area for Lepra’s work; it is one of the poorest and most densely populated countries in the world but has the fourth-highest number of leprosy cases. There is a serious lack of access to essential health services; WHO estimates suggest there are only 3.05 doctors per 10,000 people.
People affected with leprosy face daily discrimination and this, combined with a shortage of Government healthcare staff to find new cases means that for many, diagnosis is delayed. This delay results in 10% of people affected by leprosy developing a disability; a disability that could have been avoided with early case detection.
The Proyash project will remove barriers to those people seeking care and encourage earlier diagnosis. Educational campaigns and training programmes will be delivered which will see leprosy carefully integrated into the Government healthcare system, increasing capacity through improved knowledge and skills, whilst creating sustainable services. The project will also bolster referral systems and supply chains for footwear, assistive devices, and medication, ensuring that people affected by leprosy can access the support they need. Additionally, a significant part of this programme is to advocate for the rights of people affected by leprosy; ensuring they can access services such as mental health support, rehabilitation, and government financial assistance.