Lepra is a UK registered international charity (Non-governmental organization). With a history spanning almost 90 years, they currently work on the frontline in India and Bangladesh to treat, educate, rehabilitate and give a voice to people affected by disease, poverty and prejudice and discrimination.
Lepra started life in 1924 as the 'British Empire Leprosy Relief Association', by Sir Leonard Rogers, with financial help from Sir Frank Willington Carter, a Calcutta businessman and philanthropist. Since then Lepra has grown to be an international charity giving a voice to people living at the intersection of disease, poverty and prejudice by helping them to improve their health, lives and livelihoods.
In the beginning Lepra boldly stated ‘to rid the Empire of leprosy’ as a medical organisation, spearheading outpatient work instead of resorting to traditional methods of segregating people with leprosy.
Lepra now addresses not only leprosy, but also other diseases of poverty including malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and lymphatic filariasis.
Throughout Lepra’s history, the reigning monarch has always been Lepra’s patron. In the 1950s, King George VI became the first of the Royal family to sponsor children through their adoption scheme at the time. Queen Elizabeth II is the current patron.
Lepra’s expertise in community focused work to improve the health of people living on the margins of society now focuses on: Making sure people can access the health services they need Working directly with people to enable them to lift themselves out of poverty Giving people a voice to fight the prejudice they face
Lepra currently has projects in Bangladesh and in the following states in India:
- Andhra Pradesh
- Madhya Pradesh
- New Delhi
Lepra and leprosy
As the world’s first leprosy prevention organisation Lepra is one of the world’s leading authorities on leprosy. Lepra publishes academic research on leprosy in the quarterly Leprosy Review, the only English language journal on leprosy, and promotes sharing of best practice in the field.
Lepra has built a global reputation for scientific research and has a research centre in Hyderabad, India.
Lepra has always been at the forefront of drug development and research into the causes and treatment of leprosy. Here are some Lepra’s significant achievements.
- The first organisation to trial Dapsone as a treatment for leprosy in 1945-1947
- Instrumental in the development of Clofazimine (B663) in 1961
- Involved in research into the new antibiotic drug, Rifampicin, in 1972
- Suggested and hosted the ‘Heathrow Meeting’ in 1977 to discuss the very pressing matter of Dapsone resistance. The recommendations from this meeting were accepted by the ILEP Medical Commission
- In 1980, began the Lepra Evaluation Project in Karonga, Malawi, to find out how leprosy was spread
- The first organisation to introduce Multi-drug Therapy into its projects
- Undertook the leprosy vaccine trial in Malawi in 1986
- Pioneered a breakthrough in leprosy surgery with the autogenous muscle graft technique
- Continue to have models adopted by others, in 2012 this included the referral centre model being adopted by the World Health Organization.