Nepal is known globally for the Himalayas and for Mt Everest, the world’s highest point. The same geological forces that created that mountain range caused two devastating earthquakes in 2015 from which the country is only barely recovering. People affected by leprosy were badly hit by the quakes and this led to a major, ongoing fundraising campaign to rebuild people’s houses and lives and also rebuild TLM’s Anandaban hospital. The Leprosy Mission began its work in Nepal in 1957 and is by far the largest organisation working in leprosy in Nepal.
In Nepal, leprosy is perceived in many village communities as a punishment for misdeeds in a former life. This often leads to people hiding the early signs of leprosy, leaving them vulnerable to severe disability. TLM provides technical support for Government leprosy control programmes as well as a number of direct programmes in under-served areas. Complications including loss of feeling, disability, ulcers, leprosy reaction or the need for reconstructive surgery are usually referred to Anandaban Hospital, near the capital, Kathmandu. With 110 beds and two large outpatients’ clinics, one in the nearby urban area, Anandaban serves leprosy patients and the general community, and has a growing reputation for high-quality orthopaedic services. TLM also seeks to reduce the leprosy incidence in high prevalence districts by providing a single dose of the anti-leprosy drug rifampicin as a preventative treatment to the close contacts of people recently diagnosed with leprosy.
Research and training
TLM undertakes cutting-edge research through the Mycobacterial Research Laboratory. This is one of the world’s few highly professional research facilities dedicated to leprosy, and has built up a number of significant international collaborations. TLM also provides technical training on leprosy to Government health staff and other organisations, primarily through the dedicated training centre at Anandaban. It is also involved in developing disaster resilient communities, training thousands of health workers and volunteers from all over Nepal in disaster response.
People affected by leprosy and other disabilities are encouraged to meet together on a regular basis, discuss their issues and support each other. TLM provides these groups with training on group management and income generation. It encourages groups to undertake small projects with local communities, seeking to change attitudes and develop a normal level of participation in society. As self-help groups increase in capacity, they are able to register as cooperatives, enabling them to apply for Government funds and improving self-sustainability.
TLM’s country leader in Nepal is Shovakhar Kandel. The annual budget is around £1.3 million.