Disability and rehabilitation

WHO/ILEP release new guide on community-based rehabilitation and leprosy

In the context of the annual World Leprosy Day and the 17th International Leprosy Congress, WHO and the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) released the document "WHO/ILEP technical guide on community-based rehabilitation and leprosy". The guide describes the broad objectives of community-based rehabilitation (CBR), the roles and tasks of leprosy programme managers, and the responsibilities of community workers who have daily contact with people affected by leprosy, their families and communities. It recommends the leprosy control and rehabilitation approaches which are reported to be most effective. At a pre-conference workshop the guide served as a basis for discussions on elaborating strategies to ensure the inclusion of people with leprosy in existing CBR programmes and was introduced to more than 2,000 delegates of the Congress.

The guide reflects the change in attitude and understanding towards leprosy. The disabilities associated with leprosy are not unique, nor are they only about physical impairments. People with leprosy-related disability who have been stigmatized and denied equal opportunities within their families and communities, limiting their access to dedicated leprosy centres, now often remain within their families and communities. As a result these individuals can benefit from CBR, a key strategy for social inclusion, aimed at overcoming stigma, improving participation and the quality of life of persons with disabilities. As their family and community members are more involved in their care, they are less stigmatized and more empowered to play an active role in their own rehabilitation. It is a positive development towards achievement of the 1978 Declaration of Alma-Ata which introduced the strategy of CBR in an effort to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities.