Leprosy still an issue in Fiji

Dr Catherine Foi points out pictures of Makogai Island to Minister for Health and Medical Services Dr Atonio Lalabalavu during the World Leprosy Day at the PJ Twomey hospital in Tamavua. Picture: ATU RASEA

Fiji continues to detect between four to seven new leprosy cases every year, says Health Minister Dr Atonio Lalabalavu.

While speaking at a World Leprosy Day event at the Tamavua Twomey Hospital on Monday, Dr Lalabalavu said he had confidence in his staff at the Leprosy and Dermatology department to address the issue.

“They will lead us with their expertise, knowledge and skills to achieve our mission,” Dr Lalabalavu said.

“The theme for this year is quite appropriate that we “Must Act Now”.

“I have also been advised that we are also managing patients from our neighbouring Pacific island countries and this speaks volumes of the role that Tamavua Twomey Hospital is playing in the care of leprosy patients in the region.”

Dr Lalabalavu said the establishment of the Pacific Dermatology Training Centre in 2019 was a significant step towards strengthening a collective effort to eradicate leprosy in Fiji and the region.

“Leprosy is now preventable, treatable and curable.

“I acknowledge the World Health Organization for their leading role, supporting the country with free medications, multi-drug therapy and evidence-based advice on leprosy control activities.”

Dr Lalabalavu said leprosy caused disfiguring and debilitating disabilities, which would require ongoing efforts and support for patient care and well-being.

“I acknowledge the Pacific Leprosy Foundation of New Zealand for their commitment and support towards this cause.

“And they have played an integral part in supporting our patients and former patients with educational needs, housing needs, farming needs and small businesses to support their families as the statement by our prime minister earlier this year and I quote ‘let love shine’.”

“This message of love should guide and lead our work every day and we strive towards our target of eradicating leprosy in our midst.”

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