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How are partnerships with leprosy peoples’ organisations making our work stronger?

Members of OPALCO - DR Congo's Leprosy Peoples' Organisation - laughing together in a meeting
© Tom Bradley

In terms of staff numbers and finances, The Leprosy Mission is far bigger than any current leprosy peoples’ organisation. But, across the world, we are increasingly finding that partnership with leprosy peoples’ organisations is giving us access and support in ways we could not achieve on our own. These partnerships are making us more effective in our efforts to defeat leprosy and transform lives.

Reaching communities in unstable times

Since the coup in February 2021, Myanmar has been fractured by conflict. Over the last two years it has become harder and harder for our teams to safely travel the country to support communities.

While this has been the case, the Myanmar Association of Persons Affected by Leprosy (MAPAL) have been a valuable asset. They can support their communities without having to travel through dangerous regions and thanks to the capacity they have built over a number of years of partnership with TLM’s team in Myanmar, they are in a strong position to make a real difference.

In years gone by, before MAPAL was established, a conflict such as the one Myanmar is currently experiencing would have meant that we could not reach the people who needed support. We are glad that is no longer the case, thanks to MAPAL.

Implementing innovations

During the Covid lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, our team in Bangladesh needed to look for new ways of reaching patients that needed support with leprosy complications. This support was possible thanks to ALO, the leprosy peoples’ organisation in Bangladesh.

When our teams could not get to communities to provide healthcare, ALO members, who were already in those communities, could arrange video calls between community members and our doctors.

This project was so successful that TLM and ALO applied for the NTD Innovation Prize in 2022 and won. They are using the prize funding to explore a pilot project that would expand what they achieved during the Covid lockdowns, ensuring that even people in the most remote parts of Bangladesh can easily and affordably access life-transforming healthcare. ALO will be central to the implementation and success of this project. You can read more about the project here.

The most powerful awareness raisers

OPALCO is DR Congo’s leprosy peoples’ organisation. It’s a relatively new organisation, but it is already having a big impact and is making the work of The Leprosy Mission stronger.

They are engaged with our team through the THABITA Project, which focuses on church and community mobilisation in leprosy awareness and inclusion of people living with disability.

The organisation works closely with TLM Congo and is involved in the planning and delivery of awareness and advocacy activities. This makes TLM services more responsive, relevant and demand driven. The involvement of OPALCO gives leprosy a human face, especially when OPALCO educators act as role models and resource persons for others who are not visible or actively involved in their own community.

OPALCO has increased the success of outreach education and has contributed to changing the perception that people have of leprosy. This has increased the credibility of TLM Congo, the publicity and demand for leprosy services, including information, testing, and care, but also the number of people joining OPALCO to seek support.

For example one of OPALCO’s members said “Now people come to me and say voluntarily that they know someone who may have symptoms, or that they should be visited or they know someone who is affected. This is a step forward”.

The future is with LPOs

Leprosy Peoples’ Organisations must find themselves at the heart of efforts to defeat leprosy in the years to come. Their knowledge, experience, and networks can be combined with the trust they have in their communities to leverage change that NGOs and governments cannot manage on their own.

Strategic Priorities