Lepra, a UK-based international charity, has gained the support of Sir Bob Russell MP in calling for the government to acknowledge World Leprosy Day on Sunday 26 January 2014 and to note that discrimination related to leprosy still exists.
Sir Bob, MP for Colchester, has tabled an early day motion in the House of Commons, recording with appreciation the 90th anniversary of Lepra on 31 January and commending the charity for giving leprosy-affected people a voice with which to demand their rights. Recognised as the world’s first leprosy prevention organisation, Lepra has built a global reputation for its work.
Sarah Nancollas, chief executive, comments:
“Whilst we celebrate the achievements of the last 90 years, we recognise that in 2014 around 233,000 people across five continents will be newly diagnosed with leprosy and millions more live with the consequences of the disease. We have developed ways to change the lives of people affected by leprosy and other neglected diseases. These diseases are associated with poverty and attract prejudice, so we ensure that health needs are met and that we support people to improve their lives and livelihoods. We are fortunate to have many loyal supporters but we could do a lot more.”
In 1924, the charity attracted funding from HRH The Prince of Wales who became its first Patron. In 1952, HM The Queen took over this role. With 500 in-country staff, Lepra works on the frontline in India and Bangladesh to treat, educate, rehabilitate and give a voice to people living on the margins of society and affected by some of the world’s most neglected diseases. Last year, it changed the lives of more than 400,000 people and provided health education to a further 900,000.
Notes for editors
The full text of the early day motion and a list of MPs who have supported it can be seen at
For more information on Lepra, visit www.lepra.org.ukor contact Anne Kiely, communications officer on 01206 216732 or 07876 800041.
Lepra, 28 Middleborough, Colchester CO1 1TG
World Leprosy Day
World Leprosy Day is marked annually on the last Sunday in January. The day was chosen by Raoul Follereau (a campaigner) in 1953 to coincide with the anniversary of Mahatma Ghandi’s assassination on 30th January 1948.
World Leprosy Day raises awareness in the world of a disease which many people believe to be extinct. Now it is not just the disease which is forgotten, but the people too.
Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae, an acid-fast, rod-shaped bacillus. The disease mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and also the eyes.
Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest diseases. If left untreated, it can disfigure and result in permanent disability. In the 1980s an effective cure became available in the form of multi-drug therapy. More than 16 million people have been cured of the disease.
Worldwide, every two minutes one more person is diagnosed with leprosy and starts treatment. More than half (59%) of the people newly diagnosed with leprosy in 2012 live in India and Bangladesh.
Although leprosy is entirely curable, millions of people around the world are still disabled by the consequences of the disease. Many are subjected to discrimination and social exclusion because they, or members of their family, have had the disease.
Please note that the term “leper” should not be used in any situation. It has been declared a discriminatory term by the United Nations.
Other neglected diseases
Lymphatic filariasis (LF), is a neglected tropical disease. Infection occurs when filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. There is no cure and it causes severe deformities, debilitating fevers and also damages the lymph system and causes kidney damage in 40% of cases.
LF is the second major cause of long-term disability in the world (the first is mental health). Self-care, developed and taught by Lepra, eliminates fevers and reduces swelling to help people to return to a more normal life.
More than 1.4 billion people in 73 countries are at risk. Over 120 million people are currently infected, with about 40 million disfigured and incapacitated by the disease.
Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a life-threatening disease transmitted by sandflies. One in ten infected people die, making VL the second major parasitic killer after malaria.
Sixty-seven per cent of cases are concentrated around a small area of Asia where India, Bangladesh and Nepal meet. Lepra works in Bihar (state) where more than half of these cases occur. We can reduce VL by helping communities to destroy breeding grounds for the sand fly, improving water and sanitation facilities, supporting insecticide spraying and promoting the use of bed nets.
The importance of tackling neglected diseases across the world is highlighted in the Global Post 2015 Millennium Development Goals