Every year on 10th December, #HumanRightsDay commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.

This year, the United Nations launches a year-long campaign for the 50th anniversary of two International Covenants which, together with the Universal Declaration, form the International Bill of Human Rights. This sets out the civil, political, cultural, economic and social rights of all human beings.

The campaign revolves around rights and freedoms, including freedom from want and freedom from fear.

Freedom from want

People affected by leprosy, lymphatic filariasis or other neglected tropical diseases are some of the poorest people in the world.  Poverty is not just about a low income, but includes inadequate housing and nutrition, a lack of opportunities and poor access to safe water and sanitation. 

They are not free from “want”, but we must ensure that we listen to them when they define their own needs.  Each child, woman or man we work with is “born free and equal in dignity and rights” (Article 1 of the Universal Declaration).

We respect their dignity and work with them, not only to treat and manage the disease but also to support them to maintain an education and livelihood.

Freedom from fear

There are still 17 Indian laws which discriminate against people affected by leprosy.  We hope that the current efforts to repeal these laws across all States will be successful very soon so that Article 7

“All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law”

can really be applied to all.

Prejudice and stigma result in fear of being discovered when symptoms of leprosy appear: light or dark skin patches; numbness in hands or feet; ulcers.  Until the myths and misinformation about leprosy can be dispelled through education and community awareness programmes, many people affected by leprosy live in fear.

Early detection and diagnosis can prevent disability so we continue to fight and act against prejudice and encourage children, women and men to seek diagnosis and treatment.