Visiting Sri Lanka
15 November, 2018 | Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy
Courtenay Dusenbury and Christine Fenenga of the secretariat team recently spent time in the Galle District of Sri Lanka. See their photos and learn more about the Sri Lanka leprosy programme, the Udugama Hospital’s satellite clinic, and the country’s innovations to track cases and serve its communities.
Rice Fields and Tea Plantations
Rice fields and tea plantations cover much of the landscape in the Galle District, located on the southwestern point of the island, a three-hour drive south of the capital city, Colombo. The persistence of scattered leprosy cases and the challenges of reaching them in this area and others in the country led the national leprosy programme to develop several innovative programs, including GIS-linked case tracking and monthly dermatology clinics.
Covered by Rainforest
Much of Galle District is covered by rainforest, including large forest reserves. Despite the geographic isolation of some parts of the country, the national leprosy program has successfully implemented an innovative GIS-linked case tracking using a local tracking app. This app provides case-based data to headquarters with 100% of the country expected to be covered by the end of 2018. The app, linked to a central database developed in partnership with FAIRMED, also serves as a supervisory tool for the programme.
Udugama Hospital in Galle District hosts one of Sri Lanka’s 24 satellite dermatology clinics. As part of an effort developed by the national leprosy control programme and funded by the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation, a consulting dermatologist holds office hours at the clinic each month. The patients they see have been referred by local health care providers or healers, who in turn have been trained by the national leprosy programme to identify suspected cases. About 14,000 individuals are screened every year with 44 cases of leprosy detected in 2017. Three cases have been detected at Uduguma since 2014.
Dr. Veena Rasika De Silva
Dr. Veena Rasika De Silva, the hospital’s administrator, is a dynamic and innovative leader who strongly supports the leprosy satellite clinic. She surprised and delighted Miss Aya Tobiki of the Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation by chatting with her in Japanese, a language she learned during the five years she lived in Japan.
WHO Technical Advisor, Dr. Venkata Ranganadha Rao Pemmeraju, examines the availability of anti-leprosy drugs at the hospital’s pharmacy. He was pleased by the well-organized facility, which had a good stock of medicines for children and adults on hand. Dr. Pemmeraju advises countries on best practices in leprosy and has worked in the field for most of his career. Drugs used to combat leprosy are donated by Novartis.
One of the many posters for paramedical officers and other clinicians found on the walls of the district health center in Galle. It is published by the national leprosy programme. The posters and other materials (booklets, leaflets, cards and videos) create awareness and support early detection of leprosy cases in Sri Lanka’s communities. In addition to training local health workers, Sri Lanka has mobilized communities through an innovative new program to engage religious leaders in each of the country’s 25 districts. An inter-faith national leadership panel and similar teams at the district level encourage patient self- referral and reduce stigma through education and understanding.
Drs. Rasika De Silva and Supun Wijesinge explain to Dr. Christine Fenenga of the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy how multi-drug therapy is administered at the hospital pharmacy. Detailed follow-up is managed by paramedical officers, who ensure compliance over the treatment cycle. These dedicated paramedical officers ensure that persons affected and their families receive the support needed.