Thursday, 25th January, Colchester - Every day, at least 600 people are diagnosed and treated for leprosy across the world; more than 50 of those are children. Last year, 18,230 new child cases of leprosy were reported; an unacceptably high figure.

Not all children will have their cases detected early enough, with hundreds of young people diagnosed already showing visible signs of impairments. If not caught early enough, these physical impairments can go on to cause life-changing disabilities, including nerve damage, paralysis of limbs, blindness and in extreme cases, may lead to amputation.

Without renewed global efforts, leprosy will continue to spread and the number of children developing life-changing disabilities will continue to rise. Ahead of World Leprosy Day on 28th January, research commissioned by Lepra, the specialist international leprosy charity shows only 44% of the British public are aware that the disease affects children.

Geoff Prescott, Chief Executive of Lepra, says:

“Leprosy is an avoidable, tragic disease which affects millions of people in the developing world. Lack of awareness in the UK is mirrored across the globe and the effects are devastating. Each year, globally, the sector is finding more and more children with visible disabilities caused by leprosy, demonstrating that the current system is failing.

“Raising awareness in the UK can help us push leprosy up the agenda, encourage enhanced cooperation between governments, international and national health authorities and non-government organisations.

"Raising awareness in the countries affected by leprosy such as India and Bangladesh, will see more people come forward to access free treatment.”

With early diagnosis leprosy can be cured; disabilities prevented and children supported to live healthy and productive lives.

There are many ways you can support Lepra to make leprosy a disease of the past including:

  • Donate to Lepra’s ‘Put a stop to childhood disability’ appeal lepra.org.uk/appeal/no-more-disability
  • A donation of £24 could train six village doctors to recognise leprosy and ensure more children are diagnosed early
  • Visit Lepra’s social media pages on World Leprosy Day Sunday 26th January and share their messages to raise greater awareness of leprosy amongst the UK population
  • Facebook: https://https://www.facebook.com/LEPRAHealthinAction/
  • Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lepra_HinA

Notes to Editors

  • The research was carried out online in December 2017 by Vital on behalf of Lepra and can be provided upon request
  • Mubarak is a 12 year old boy in India who has been supported by Lepra. His story shows the results of a late diagnosis and the impact of the stigma that accompanies leprosy. His story can be viewed here lepra.org.uk/mubaraks-story
  • The World Health Organisation reported that 214,738 cases were diagnosed with leprosy in 2016. (WER, 1st September 2017). Of these, 18,230 were children