Where can we trace the starting of a river? At the spring or underground?
So it is with Lok Seva Sangam (LSS): it was registered on the 5th February 1976, but our work for leprosy control was going also before that date. Sr. Luigina Marchesi had a long experience of leprosy control in Vegavaram (Eluru, Andhra Pradesh), where she started a 100-bed leprosy hospital. Fr. Carlo Torriani had done the first systematic leprosy survey in Mumbai at Janata Colony, Mankhurd, in 1973.
When the Government of Maharashtra decided to coordinate the work of the different NGOs, the M and L wards (Chembur and Kurla) had been allotted to LSS, and we started submitting a monthly report of our work to the medical authorities. LSS since the beginning undestood that leprosy patients suffer more from their segregation due to the stigma than from the disease itself.
So, our motto was and is: “TO CURE LEPROSY WITHOUT SEGREGATION”.
Therefore it is not by chance that the word leprosy does not appear in our name. Our survey of population is to detect skin diseases. Our dispensaries are dermatological clinics. Our kindergartens are for all children. When we started in 1976, we could already say: “Leprosy is curable”. Since the fifties, in fact, Dapsone was the only effective cure for leprosy. And after Rifampicin was discovered, LSS was the first to use it systematically in Mumbai.
To undertand how for the first time in history we can claim success against leprosy – the scourge that has been present since biblical times – it is enough to say that in the eighties LSS was having in its register more than 4,000 names of leprosy patients in a population of one million; at the beginning of 2007 we were having only 219. Since the beginning of our activity we treated almost 28,000 people and we cured approx. 21,000 of them.
Because of the success of the anti-lebrosy campaign all over the country, the Government had taken responsibility to integrate the cure of lebrosy in the national health program and had requested NGOs like LSS to take up the challenge of tuberculosis. This is why now LSS acts on both fronts.
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Who we are
Lok Seva Sangam (LSS) is a voluntary agency, registered in February 1976 under the Societies Registration Act and is essentially aimed at leprosy control and at the welfare of leprosy patients in the urban area of Bombay. Leprosy control and welfare activities had been started in 1969 at Janata Colony, Mankhurd (now Cheeta Camp) and at Chunabhatti slum where the incidence of leprosy is very high. In 1976, LSS took up the responsibility for leprosy control in “L” Ward (Kurla area) which has a population of over 300,000 people.
The main aspects of the control program are: Survey, Education and Treatment (SET). Baiganwadi slum is so far from the economic development, where India is currently competing with the developed world; here the poor are still becoming poorer. The project of Emmaus Swiss aims at empowering these people of Baiganwadi:
- To raise themselves at least to a level where they might get a chance to develop themselves.
- To have a right to access health care services.
- To get a knowledge to approach where and when in periods of severe health crisis caused by TB-HIV.