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Thursday, October 15, 1998 Published at 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK


BBC combats leprosy

Leprosy still affects about 830,000 people

The BBC is to help the World Health Organisation eradicate leprosy with a campaign of television and radio programmes.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates there are 830,000 cases of leprosy worldwide. It is most prevalent in poverty-stricken areas of in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

Leprosy is curable, but can leave sufferers deformed and crippled if left untreated.

WHO aims to rid the world of the disease by the year 2000.

Broadcast assistance

Now the BBC Marshall Plan of the Mind Trust (MPM) plans to produce television and radio programmes to raise public awareness of the disease and how it is treated.

It will also produce print support materials to accompany the broadcasts, and follow-up the campaign to gauge its success.

MPM is a charitable organisation that operates as part of the BBC's World Service.

It provides technical advice and support to local broadcasters around the world.

Corinna Furse, head of MPM, said: "What we try to do is work with local media so we provide the overall structure and raise the finance for the project and monitor the project.

"But it is the local media that carry it out to make sure it is as sensitive as possible to local culture."

Worst hit regions

MPM also produces a radio soap opera in Russia, which once featured UK prime minister Tony Blair expounding Labour education policy in Russian.

The campaign, which is funded by the WHO, will run in five of the countries worst hit by leprosy - India, Brazil, Indonesia, Nepal and Ethiopia.

[ image: Pele has joined the campaign]
Pele has joined the campaign
It has enlisted the support of local celebrities such as the Brazilian footballer Pele and the Ethiopian athlete Haile Gabreselassie.

The campaign is to launch first in Nepal, where it will tie in with the country's own leprosy awareness week.

Ms Furse said it would include short public information films and radio broadcasts to raise awareness.

"We also hope to do a little bit in the way of radio drama and possibly a bit of television drama, and then possibly some radio question and answer programmes," she said

The trust will monitor the effectiveness of the broadcasts and use its findings to guide the approach the campaign takes in other countries.

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Internet Links

World Health Organisation

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