Zimbabwe detected 15 cases of leprosy in 2020 alone, most of them in Binga District, Matabeleland North Province, an official has said.
Over the past five years, Zimbabwe has been recording between 5 and 10 new leprosy cases per year.
The Ministry of Health and Child Care leprosy focal person Dr Nicholas Siziba conceded that the country needs to work harder on improving case detection and early diagnosis. He said:
Of the 15 recorded cases in 2020, nine cases were recorded in Binga and the diagnosed had Grade 2 disability which shows us that a lot of work still needs to be done to improve our case detection and early diagnosis.
We are supposed to be diagnosing cases before they develop a disability or maybe stage 1.
This will also help address the stigma around leprosy in our communities which often associate leprosy with disability and poverty.
Dr Mkhokheli Ngwenya, the WHO national professional officer for Tuberculosis and Leprosy, said:
Zimbabwe has recorded an increase in the number of leprosy cases, with nine cases having been recorded in Binga alone over the past years.
In 2020, leprosy cases for Zimbabwe were 15 and although leprosy cases fluctuated substantially in recent years, it tended to increase through the 2007-2020 period ending at 15 in 2020.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leprosy (also known as Hansen’s disease) is an infection caused by slow-growing bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae. It can affect the nerves, skin, eyes, and lining of the nose (nasal mucosa).
Leprosy is curable if diagnosed and treated early.