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Leprosy higher than reported

Leprosy higher than reported

A total of 2,461 lepers were treated in Cambodia last year, though the true

number of cases could be as high as 10,000, says the National Leprosy Control

Program.

Of the reported cases, 1,644 were new patients while the rest

had been on treatment for some time, according to program director Dr T.Y

Abdulcoyaume, of the Ministry of Health.

Doctors in only a quarter of

Cambodia's communes had been trained to diagnose and treat leprosy under the

program. Cases in other communes were often likely to go unreported.

Last

year's statistics also did not include remote Preah Vihear and Mondulkiri

provinces.

The two provinces were thought to have one of the highest

leprosy rates in the country, along with others like Battambang, Pursat, Banteay

Meanchay, Siem Reap and Kompong Chhnang.

Leprosy was particularly

prevalent in mountainous areas and other places away from rivers, where lack of

water could mean people were less hygienic, helping the spread of the

disease.

Dr Abdulcoyaume said leprosy cases were likely to be 3-4 times

higher than reported. The World Health Organization estimated about 10,000 cases

in Cambodia.

Treating leprosy was relatively easy, he said. Depending on

which type of leprosy a person had, they received a course of two or three drugs

for six months or 24 months.

In most of the country, people could stay at

home to take the treatment.

In Kompong Cham province, however, people who

contracted leprosy tended to go to Troeung village

- site of Cambodia's only leper colony, reported on in the Post's last issue

- for treatment. Many stayed there for life because of the stigma of the

disease.

Meanwhile, a German/French anti-leprosy NGO, called CIOMAL, said

last week it was working to help the residents of Troeung.

CIOMAL's

medical coordinator, Dr Christoph Bendick, said the NGO began distributing rice

and fish to about 100 Troeung residents, those under treatment for leprosy,

three months ago.

The food, supplied by the World Food Program, was being

delivered monthly.

CIOMAL also provided leprosy medication to the

Ministry of Health's central medical store.

CIOMAL, along with the Don

Bosco NGO, had dug a well and provided water jars to Troeung families, and

offered other support on a case-by-case basis.

Handicap International had

also provided funding to produce special shoes for people disabled by

leprosy.

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