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World Leprosy Day | Know your theme

by Nirdesh Baral

World Leprosy Day | Know your themeWorld Leprosy Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of January. In 2023, World Leprosy Day is 29 January. This international day is an opportunity to celebrate people who have experienced leprosy, raise awareness of the disease, and call for an end to leprosy-related stigma and discrimination.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 the eyes. Leprosy is curable and treatment in the early stages can prevent disability.

World Leprosy Day | Know your theme

The “Act Now: End Leprosy” campaign aims to empower countries to end leprosy and inspire real commitment. The campaign calls on governments, decision-makers, donors and the global health community to prioritize leprosy elimination efforts to realize zero leprosy goals. 

Key Messages for World Leprosy Day | Know your theme

  1. Elimination is possible: We have the power and tools to stop transmission and defeat this disease.
  2. Act now: We need the resources and commitment to end leprosy. Prioritize leprosy elimination.
  3. Reach the unreached: Leprosy is preventable and treatable. Suffering from leprosy is needless.

Key Facts on Leporsy

  • Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused by a bacillus, Mycobacterium leprae. M leprae multiplies slowly and the incubation period of the disease, on average, is 5 years. Symptoms may occur within 1 year but can also take as long as 20 years or even more.
  • Leprosy mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosa of the upper respiratory tract, and the eyes. The disease is curable with multidrug therapy.
  • Leprosy is likely transmitted via droplets, from the nose and mouth, during close and frequent contact with untreated cases. Untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes.
  • There were 127558 new leprosy cases detected globally in 2020, according to official figures from 139 countries from the 6 WHO Regions. This includes 8 629 children below 15 years. The new case detection rate among child population was recorded at 4.4 per million child population.
  • Among the new cases 7 198 new cases were detected with grade2 disabilities (G2D) and the new G2D rate was recorded at 0.9 per million population
  • At the end of the year 2020, the prevalence was 129 389 cases on treatment and prevalence rate corresponds to 16.7 per million population.
  • The COVID 19 pandemic has disrupted programme implementation and a reduction in new case detection by 37% in 2020 compared with 2019


Long term vision

Zero leprosy: zero infection and disease, zero disability, zero stigma and discrimination


Elimination of leprosy (defined as interruption of transmission) 

Global targets for 2030

  • 120 countries with zero new autochthonous cases
  • 70% reduction in annual number of new cases detected
  • 90% reduction in rate per million population of new cases with grade-2 disability (G2D)
  • 90% reduction in rate per million children of new child cases with leprosy

Strategic pillars and key components

1: Implement integrated, country-owned zero leprosy roadmaps in all endemic countries

  • Political commitment with adequate resources for leprosy in integrated context
  • National partnerships for zero leprosy and zero leprosy roadmaps engaging all stakeholders 
  • Capacity building in the healthcare system for quality services
  • Effective surveillance and improved data management systems
  • Monitoring of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and adverse drug reactions

2: Scale up leprosy prevention alongside integrated active case detection

  • Contact tracing for all new cases
  • Preventive chemotherapy scaled up
  • Integrated active case-finding in targeted populations
  • Existing and potential new vaccines

3: Manage leprosy and its complications and prevent new disability

  • Early case detection, accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment
  • Access to comprehensive, well-organized referral facilities
  • Diagnosis and management of leprosy reactions, neuritis and disabilities
  • Monitoring, support and training in self-care 
  • Mental well-being through psychological first aid and therapeutic counselling

4: Combat stigma and ensure human rights are respected

  • Adoption of Principles and Guidelines for elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members
  • Inclusion of organizations and networks of persons affected by leprosy
  • Amendment of discriminatory laws
  • Interventions and processes to reduce and monitor leprosy-related stigma in communities
  • Access to social support and rehabilitation

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