An family sitting on some steps An family sitting on some steps

About us

Our history

On 31st January 1924, the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association (BELRA) was launched at Mansion House in the City of London. We operated under this name for 40 years, before renaming ourselves the British Leprosy Relief Association (LEPRA) in 1964. We’ve been known simply as Lepra since 2008.

As we move into our 96th year, our expertise still supports those affected by leprosy and lymphatic filariasis.

We work in India, Bangladesh, Mozambique and Zimbabwe and offer support, training and health system strengthening.

We are proud of our achievements and continue to foster strong relationships with local and national governments in our project countries.

We are an evidence-led organisation and work to deliver real change to people’s lives and to give them a voice.

Our teams on the ground have pioneered many successful programmes and capacity building systems that have been adopted by others, including government and international organisations.

Our achievements

  • In 1924 The British Empire Leprosy Relief Association was inaugurated by H.R.H The Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) at Mansion House
  • In 1945 we were the first organisation to trial Dapsone as a treatment for leprosy
  • In 1959 we produced the first made-to-measure shoe to protect ulcerated feet. 
  • In 1975, we were one of the first associations to use multidrug therapy for leprosy treatment
  • In 1989 The Leprosy Society of India was launched, extending our Lepra family.
  • In 1998, we started work in preventing disabilities caused by the long-term effects of leprosy in Mayurbanjh, India
  • In 2000, we introduced health education vans in India, to present messages in a variety of media. Our programmes involve thousands of local volunteers, bringing health services and information to their communities
  • In 2006, we set up health camps in Bangladesh 
  • In 2012, we started self-support groups in Arogya Disha, India, for women with lymphatic filariasis or leprosy
  • In 2013, a new project in Bangladesh began to work with more than 22,000 people affected by physical disability to improve livelihood opportunities by skills training and business grants
  • In 2015, we started to fund work delivered by Netherlands Leprosy Relief (NLR) in the Zambezi province of Mozambique. 
  • In 2019, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the John Bradburn Memorial Society in Zimbabwe, and began working in an advisory capacity in the Mutemwa Leprosy Care Centre, providing essential skills and training those helping people affected by leprosy in Zimbabwe. 

Our Patron Her Majesty The Queen

Since 1924, patronage by the ruling monarch has been extremely important in gaining respect and recognition for our international charity working overseas.  Her Majesty The Queen’s active and personal interest in our work enhances the relationship with our patron.