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11 reasons we are thankful for 2022

TLM-sponsored delegates from Nepal attending the International Leprosy Congress

There are many reasons that we can be thankful in 2022, especially as this is the first year that our operations – particularly our hospitals - were not significantly affected by the pandemic. Here’s a look at 11 reasons we are feeling grateful at the end of 2022.

1. The still, small voice that silenced the UK Parliament

In June of 2022, The Leprosy Mission took part in an event at the UK Parliament which focused on Neglected Tropical Diseases. At this event a woman called Rachna from India spoke about her experience of leprosy. Her quiet, humble testimony stilled the room.

2. Increasing leprosy detection in Mozambique and DR Congo

The latest figures from the World Health Organization were not overwhelmingly positive; many countries found fewer cases than expected in 2021 due to the impact of the pandemic. However, we are thankful to see that the numbers of cases detected in DR Congo and Mozambique actually increased on pre-pandemic years. This demonstrates that our teams and their partners are proving successful in their efforts to find and treat all cases of leprosy in their countries.

3. More space for impact in Nepal, Nigeria and Timor Leste

In Timor-Leste and Nepal we were pleased to inaugurate new buildings that will allow our teams the opportunity to have greater impact. Our Timor team opened their new office building, a major milestone in their history. Then, later in the year the team at Anandaban Hospital opened a new trauma centre, a project they had been working on for some years. Finally, our team in Nigeria have acquired a building next to their office in Abuja. Buildings might not seem exciting, but they are crucial to our teams making and impact.

4. Finding new and improved ways to prevent leprosy

The WHO has authorised the distribution of an antibiotic that will prevent leprosy and this year it is beginning to roll out across many of our countries. Also, our research teams started work alongside NLR and other partners on perfecting the best combination of antibiotics to prevent leprosy developing in people who are at risk. We hope the PEP++ project will be a key step in the road towards zero leprosy transmission

5. Prize-winning innovation alongside persons affected by leprosy

Our team in Bangladesh won the NTD Innovation Prize this September. The prize was awarded for their partnership with ALO, a leprosy peoples’ organisation in Bangladesh, with whom they have established digital healthcare services for people affected by leprosy, which has cut the number of people needing hospital admissions. The prize money will be used to expand the project, which started during the pandemic.

6. Leprosy is better known in the disability sector

Leprosy is one of the world’s leading causes of preventable disability, yet persons affected by leprosy often struggle to find a space within the wider disability movement. This year there was more space created for leprosy in the disability sector through contributions at the Global Disability Summit and at the UN’s Disability Rights Conference (CRPD Conference).

The Leprosy Mission facilitated two side events at the Global Disability Summit in February. Why NTDs Should Be Part of the Disability Conversation and We are Able! Are YOU able too? We were hosted a side event at the Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the topic of Economic Empowerment for persons with disabilities.

7. Our work has expanded into Kiribati

We are very pleased to say that this year we received approval from the Kiribati government to start leprosy work in the country. It will be the privilege of our team in New Zealand to reach out to this small Pacific island and begin work to support persons affected by leprosy there.

8. Representation in Hyderabad

In November 2022, two major events took place in Hyderabad. The first was the Global Forum of Persons Affected by Leprosy, which was a large gathering of leaders from organisations of persons affected by leprosy from across the world. The second event was the International Leprosy Congress, which was attended by more than 100 TLM staff members. At each of these events we were privileged to contribute to discussions, lead sessions, and make valuable connections that equip us to end leprosy.

9. Reaching thousands who weren’t aware that leprosy still exists

Many people across the world think that leprosy is an ancient disease that died out long ago. They aren’t aware that there are millions of people living with the consequences of leprosy today. In 2022 we were able to reach thousands of people online through two key moments.

On World Leprosy Day we hosted an Ask Me Anything session with Mathias Duck, who spent a whole day answering questions about his experience of leprosy. Then, in October we put an article on our website in response to the supposed portrayal of leprosy in the new Game of Thrones season. Both of these digital events have reached thousands of people with the news that leprosy still exists and has the ability to ruin lives.

10. Equipping the leprosy and NTD sectors with our new publication

In 2022 we launched The Leprosy News, a new quarterly online magazine which aims to inform and support people who are working in the leprosy and NTD sectors. Over four issues we have reached hundreds of colleagues and partners. Key articles have looked at how to get contact tracing right, resetting north-south power imbalances, and how Nigeria is leading the way in integrating mental health care into NTD programmes.

11. Our supporters continue to be generous

Last but never least, our annual reason for giving thanks: our supporters. Though this is the third turbulent year in a row, our supporters remain faithful. Without you, everything that is listed above would not be possible. Thank you.