World Leprosy Day 2018: Thousands of girls and boys at risk of developing disabilities


American Leprosy Missions and the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) are warning that without renewed global efforts to tackle leprosy, thousands of boys and girls are at risk of developing lifelong disabilities.

The warning comes on World Leprosy Day, January 28, 2018, a special day commemorated for more than 60 years, when thousands of people across the globe stop to remember those who suffer from leprosy.

Leprosy is a disease that is curable if caught early, yet without improved active case detection and early diagnosis, the number of children at risk of developing impairments and disabilities remains unacceptably high.

Of every 100 people newly diagnosed with leprosy, nine will be children. Last year, 18,230 new child cases of leprosy were reported. Recent World Health Organization data also show that the number of people being diagnosed with advanced stage leprosy and existing impairments has stagnated.

Jan van Berkel, president of ILEP, says, “Every day, fifty children are diagnosed with leprosy. That’s more than one child every half an hour. Sadly, not all boys and girls will have their cases detected in time, as each year hundreds of children are diagnosed already showing visible signs of impairments. If not caught early enough, these physical impairments can go on to cause lifelong disabilities.”

Bill Simmons, president and CEO of American Leprosy Missions, adds, “The number of children newly diagnosed with leprosy who already have disabilities highlights the urgent need to find and treat all people affected by leprosy, especially children. With early diagnosis we can cure leprosy, prevent disabilities and help children live healthy and productive lives.”

Global annual leprosy statistics provided by the World Health Organization show that the number of new case detections is slowly decreasing as a long-term trend, but it is not showing the reduction needed to stop this disease.

American Leprosy Missions and ILEP are calling for more active detection and early diagnosis of leprosy. In addition, pioneering research and innovative approaches will be required to finally bring an end to this ancient disease.

Contact Details for American Leprosy Missions
Sarah Hesshaus, Communications Director
[email protected]

Contact Details for ILEP
Rosa Argent, Communications Manager
+41 789 661434
[email protected]

About American Leprosy Missions
American Leprosy Missions, based in Greenville, South Carolina, is the oldest and largest Christian organization in the United States dedicated to curing and caring for people affected by leprosy and related diseases. It currently supports projects and partners in countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas. Since its founding in 1906, American Leprosy Missions has provided holistic care to more than four million people around the world including medical treatment and training, community development and vaccine research.

About ILEP the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations
ILEP is a membership organization of 14 international NGOs whose outreach spans 67 countries and 700 projects worldwide. ILEP is supported by two advisory boards; a Panel of Women and Men Affected by Leprosy (the Panel) and the ILEP Technical Commission (ITC). In the fight against leprosy, ILEP and its Members work alongside persons affected by leprosy, the World Health Organization, the Novartis Foundation, the Nippon Foundation, other NGOs, Governments, Ministries of Health and over 500,000 supporters worldwide.