Sri Lanka is an island situated near India. It is four times smaller than the UK, with a population of 21 million. The island is known for its hilly regions where tea is produced, as well as its abundant wildlife and historical sites that make it a centre for tourism.
In 2021 there were 1,025 new cases of leprosy diagnosed in Sri Lanka. 109 of these cases were in children.
There are 0.96 doctors per 1,000 people compared to 2.81 per 1,000 in the UK.
Due to the current economic crisis in Sri Lanka the poverty rate there is predicted to increase to 11.7 per cent in 2022, according to the World Bank. Three in ten households (6.26 million people) regularly do not have enough food. Three million people are set to receive emergency food, nutrition, and school meals from the World Food Programme until December. Steeply increasing food prices have severely affected people’s ability to put sufficient and nutritious food on the table. As a result, many families have been forced to eat smaller meals, and less healthy food. Two in five households in Sri Lanka are currently not consuming adequate diets.
Our projects in Sri Lanka are implemented by our local partners: the Alliance Development Trust (ADT), Kaveri Kala Manram (KKM) and the Leprosy People’s Association of Sri Lanka People’s Forum for Change (PFfC). These include supporting government leprosy services, community partnerships, empowerment, advocacy, research and training.
Supporting government leprosy services
We have a very strong working relationship with Government institutions both nationally and regionally. We are supporting them in new case detection, through leprosy training, in complication management and to end legislation that discriminates against people affected by the disease.
Our partners are training people affected by leprosy in understanding their rights, healthy eating, good hygiene and issues surrounding gender-based violence. Peacebuilding is at the heart of our work in Sri Lanka and we are bringing different ethnic and religious groups together to fight against leprosy.
One way this is happening is through training people to be Advocates for Change - people who work to improve leprosy services and combat discrimination in their communities. We also support the Leprosy People’s Association of Sri Lanka, a group whose members are affected by leprosy. Members support each other and are speaking out about their needs, working alongside leprosy organisations and the government to improve their lives and gain equal rights.
Working with faith communities
We work closely with faith communities, raising awareness and finding new cases, as well as encouraging them to be more inclusive of people marginalised by leprosy and disability. Our partner ADT has joined with the Inter-religious Peace Foundation and the Government Anti-Leprosy Campaign to set up interfaith leprosy committees around the country.
These committees are chaired by church leaders that have training on leprosy and include Muslim imams, Hindu and Buddhist priests as well as clergy from other religions. They are supporting the work of Government public health inspectors in raising awareness of leprosy, assisting in case finding as well as reducing stigma and discrimination.
Improving quality of life
Once treated, people affected by leprosy often need further support as they look towards the future. Local groups help them to support each other and develop sustainable livelihoods through saving together. These groups are developed as branches of the Leprosy People’s Association of Sri Lanka and once established also take part in advocacy, new case detection and raising awareness as well as supporting the wider community through growing sustainable food sources and promoting good nutrition.
They are also being provided with safe water sources for drinking water and irrigation in the dry north of Sri Lanka where due to stigma, families affected by leprosy are often prevented from using community wells. Their new wells are giving them easy access to clean water and by helping them to grow crops, a source of food and income.
Agriculture and nutrition
People are more likely to develop leprosy if they have poor nutrition and low immunity. Once affected by leprosy, their family’s nutrition is likely to be worse due to stigma, disability and loss of livelihoods.
Our partner KKM is encouraging better nutrition through developing sustainable agriculture, improved incomes from farming, kitchen gardening and training on eating well among communities affected by leprosy. Churches and temples are also getting involved by growing their own food to sell to people in their communities.