World Leprosy Day Celebration Launching Ceremony of Family Focused Case Finding Activities in Indonesia

East Java, Indonesia

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor and a pleasure to be given this opportunity to address you today.

As you know, Indonesia had achieved elimination of leprosy as a public health issue, successfully at the national level, as early as the year 2000 thereby fulfilling the WHO criteria of having a prevalence of less than one case per 10,000 population. Yet you were not content with just a national level elimination. I would like to pay my greatest respects to the commitment made by all of you under the strong leadership of the health ministers over the past 15 years to have continued to work actively at the regional level, especially in the high prevalence districts.

Our next immediate goal is to have no region with high cases of leprosy.

I understand that here on Madura Island in East Java there are around 2,000 new cases of leprosy detected each year. In my experience, the problem in endemic regions is that many people don’t know about leprosy. They do not know the symptoms. They do not know that the disease can be cured if treated. They do not know that treatment is free. As a result, few receive appropriate treatment at the early stages.

I believe that this Indonesian government’s launch of Family Focused Case Finding activities is a very important initiative. Here in East Java, it will help people to gain knowledge about leprosy, which in turn will lead to finding and treating patients at early stage of leprosy. With the early detection of initial symptoms of leprosy, it can be followed by appropriate treatment. This is the key to complete cure of the disease.

There is one more reason why I repeatedly stress the importance of early diagnosis and early treatment.

If this opportunity for early treatment is missed, the disease will progress with an increased chance of leaving physical disabilities and deformities, which are the reasons that encourage discrimination. As you know, discrimination against leprosy is deep-rooted and not an easy problem to address. However, if physical disabilities from leprosy can be prevented, through early diagnosis and treatment, the possibilities of discrimination against people affected by leprosy can be greatly reduced.

I understand that your activities will take place not just in East Java but also in South and Central Sulawesi, and eventually deployed throughout the country. I greatly welcome this initiative of the Indonesian government.

I look to the firm leadership of Governor Soekarwo to see that these activities start off in the right direction. I hope that what is achieved here in East Java will become a model for other regions to follow in Indonesia.

To the district bupatis and the heads of district health offices and villages, I look to you also for a thoroughly committed approach. I am very much aware that you have many other challenges to deal with, but I hope you will take this opportunity to renew your dedication, once again, for the cause of leprosy.

I would also like to ask the residents of Madura Island to participate actively in this very important initiative which is designed to bring health to you and to your family members.