Leprosy is one of 18 diseases formally recognised as Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs). According to the World Health Organization, NTDs affect nearly 1.5 billion people in 149 countries. They present a largely hidden burden among the poorest, most marginalised and voiceless communities, and disproportionately affect children, women and people with disability. The diseases flourish in communities with poor housing and sanitation, unsafe water, and limited access to basic health care. They hinder development, keeping individuals and communities trapped in poverty.
Progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals requires attention to be given to combatting NTDs and supporting those affected by them. The World Health Organization has a detailed action plan with five main strategies for tackling NTDs. Two of these strategies are particularly important in leprosy. The first is an intensified focus on early case finding and the right management of the disabling complications that severely impact some people affected by leprosy. The second is the provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene (‘WASH’). With the development of drug regimes that help prevent leprosy, a third strategy – preventive chemotherapy among contacts of people newly diagnosed with leprosy – can be added.
The Leprosy Mission is a signatory to the London Declaration on NTDs, which aims to see significant progress made towards eradicating these diseases. It is also an active member of the global NTD NGDO Network. It is important and beneficial to engage with the NTD movement because:
- This encourages fellow NTD organisations to include leprosy in their programmes
- TLM is enabled to offer greater help to leprosy-affected communities which are nearly always affected by other NTDs as well as leprosy
- Together, our voices are more likely to be heard by donors and governments
- Together we can work more effectively to reduce the stigma associated with many NTDs
TLM’s experience and expertise adds value to the approaches used for other NTDs, and vice versa, so we can learn from one another.