COVID-19 Support for Leprosy Communities: Jharkhand State, India

Activity area:

Through our grant programs, Sasakawa Health Foundation is working to realize a world free from all forms of suffering associated with leprosy, or Hansen’s disease.

In 2020, a year defined by the coronavirus pandemic, life became tougher for persons affected by leprosy and their families as lockdowns and restrictions on movement disrupted lives and livelihoods. Therefore, in addition to our existing grant programs, in FY2020 beginning April 1 last year we implemented a comprehensive program to support leprosy communities amid COVID-19.

The program is based on the results of pilot projects we carried out in three countries—Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Nepal—and has three pillars:
(1) Responding to direct needs, (2) Advocacy with the government, and (3) Actively disseminating information.

Our first report comes from India.

India has been hard hit by the coronavirus. At time of writing, it has the second-highest number of COVID-19 cases and the third-highest death toll in the world, with many people suffering from the pandemic’s impact. This is especially true of those living in communities of persons affected by leprosy, who cannot enjoy the benefit of public services due to problems with resident registration, lack of access to information, and difficult application procedures. Many have lost their source of income, are not getting enough to eat,

and their physical condition is deteriorating because they are not able to receive the treatment they need for the aftereffects of leprosy.

The project was conducted in Jharkhand State in eastern India from November 2020 to February 2021 in cooperation with Atma Swabhiham (Atma), an organization of persons affected by leprosy, with the support of the Jago Foundation, a local NGO. Founded in Jharkhand in 2008, Atma is a community organization that aims to integrate persons affected by leprosy into society and carries out various activities including awareness-raising and self-care promotion.

Responding to direct needs

Before Atma launched the project, it worked with 20 young people from leprosy colonies to gather information and create rosters of those most in need. Among these, 110 households were provided with food, 20 people were provided with 5,000 rupees each for living expenses, and 50 children were provided with 2,000 rupees each as educational support.

Advocacy with government

Meanwhile, 20 colonies held leprosy awareness meetings and leadership training for young people and submitted petitions to district and state leprosy officers calling for improvements to their lives and better health services.

Actively disseminating information

Further, as a result of regular updates on social media, including posting information gathered directly from persons affected by leprosy about the problems they faced amid the pandemic, Atma was able to receive emergency assistance from other NGOs.

The four-month project, which ended in February 2021, achieved better-than-expected results because Atma made the most of its network and resources and did everything it could to make it a success. Since March, however, with the spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, more people than ever have been infected and life in leprosy communities remains extremely difficult.

Emergency relief activities in Gourkhuti Bhowra leprosy colony in Jharia, Dhanbad city, in January 2021

Female residents from Gourkhuti Bhowra and nine other colonies gather in Jharia in February 2021 to check on the progress of the project.








Currently, the Foundation continues to support Atma’s activities in the second phase of our COVID support program that began in FY2021, aiming to improve life for those in the colonies and promote their empowerment.