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Why we are needed

Leprosy is not under control

A feeling is emerging that leprosy has been eliminated. However, while good progress has been made in the control of leprosy, new patients will continue to be found in many countries for the next 2 decades at least. Statistics from different regions are based on cases detected and patients registered for treatment. However, the actual number of patients is estimated to be 34 times more than what is reported in many countries.

Leprosy is still found in many countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Detection and diagnosis are difficult. There is no laboratory test yet to diagnose leprosy, the disease has a long incubation period, with symptoms taking a long time to appear.

Between 1 and 2 million people have visible and irreversible impairments due to leprosy. They may need interventions to help them care for themselves, support from their communities and or physical rehabilitation. Many people with leprosy-​related disabilities, and even some with no physical signs, face social exclusion because of stigma against the disease. People facing such problems may need counselling, psychological support or socio-​economic rehabilitation to help them fulfil a normal role in society.

Photography: NLR


  • Up-​to-​date knowledge of leprosy. NLR employs a team of medical and other technical advisors, which ensures that up-​to-​date knowledge on all aspects of leprosy and leprosy control is properly embedded in NLR supported programmes. NLR collaborates closely with the Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam, with the VU University Amsterdam and other institutes in the Netherlands and abroad on research, to address current challenges in the field of leprosy, other NTDs and disabilities.
  • NLR has a track record in Public Health of nearly 50-​years. Our aim is to improve health systems and quality of life of individuals, their families and communities through improvement in government health and social services responsible for leprosy control and rehabilitation. In addition, NLR increasingly works with and through NGOs active in the field leprosy, other NTDs and disability.
  • Long track record in disability-​related work. Leprosy is a significant cause of disability in low and middle-​income countries and NLR has a long track record in disability-​related work and has extensive experience in facilitating and advocating for health and social services that focus on prevention of disabilities and rehabilitation.
  • Sustainability. Capacity strengthening is key to sustainability and sustainability is a prerequisite for meaningful development. The capacity-​strengthening activities of NLR reach beyond governmental health and social services and include non-​government and client organizations.
  • Human Rights. NLR has been aware of the importance of stigma, social exclusion and human rights violations for many years and has supported stigma reduction as an integral part of leprosy control programmes. Promotion of human rights in all aspects of life is an important topic within our priority area Empowerment

Why we are needed selfhelpgroup Nigeria 1200X745Why we are needed research 1200X745
Photography: Henk Plomp /​NLR

Neglected Tropical Diseases

Leprosy and other Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) are often disabling and stigmatized. For the people affected, the social and mental health consequences are often even more important than the disabilities: loss of former identity, status and self-​esteem, depression and different degrees of social exclusion.

As a member of DCDD, ILEP and IDDC, NLR lobbies to ensure that people with disabilities due to leprosy are included in disability-​specific programmes and services. The next step concerns the full inclusion of all people with disabilities in mainstream development of their communities and societies. See Co-​operation for more information.

Leprosy and NTD

  • Annually 200.000+ new leprosy cases are detected
  • Many of cases detected late (long incubation, symptoms can take as long as 20 years to appear)
  • Leprosy is one of the most disabling NTDs
  • 1.4 billion people affected by NTDs

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