Timeline of Lepra history

from 1924 to 2024

  • Sir Leonard Rogers, Reverend Frank Oldrieve and Sir Frank Carter

    1924

    Lepra was founded in 1924, originally as BELRA, by Sir Leonard Rogers, Reverend Frank Oldrieve and Sir Frank Carter. From their experience in India, the men saw a need for an organisation dedicated to eradicating leprosy and studying the disease.

    At the inaugural meeting of BELRA, held at Mansion House in London on 31st January 1924, a message from H.R.H. The Prince of Wales (Edward VIII) was read out: “The elimination of leprosy from the British Empire is a wonderful ideal alike for British Medical Science and for British Administration. His Royal Highness is confident that this ideal can be realised if the Association is accorded the support it merits”.

  • Leprosy Notes

    1928

    The first issue of 'Leprosy Notes' was printed in 1928, a free to access scientific journal, aiming to share research and findings from field workers across the world.

    The journal has been published quarterly since then without interruption and is now the only printed, peer-reviewed, English language leprosy journal. The title of Leprosy Review was first used in 1930.

    Read the current issue of Leprosy Review

  • The Royal family

    1936

    In 1936, BELRA launched its 'Child Adoption Scheme', whereby supporters in the UK and elsewhere 'adopted' a particular child and provided financial assistance for support and treatment.

    Over the years, the Royal Family helped support many children through the scheme, including our future patron - Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

    Lepra's relationship with the Royal Family has been long-standing since 1924, with the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII becoming the first patron of the association. He was succeeded by his brother, His Majesty King George VI.

  • Cover of Belra

    1937

    BELRA Quarterly Magazine was launched in 1937 as a way of keeping the association's supporters informed of its work. This issue from 1952 shows Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret meeting a group of children affected by leprosy, who had been kept away in 'sad isolation' from a Guide Jamboree. The Princesses left the royal tour to speak with the children, which demonstrated their enormous empathy and kindness.

    The magazine continues to be published quarterly to this day, and is now simply known as 'Lepra News'.

    Read Lepra News

  • Dr Robert Cochrane

    1945

    In 1945, Dr Robert Cochrane began studies with sulfone derivatives, and was the first to use dapsone in the treatment of leprosy, laying the groundwork for treatments still used today.

    He received many honours for his work, including Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George; India’s Kaiser-i-Hind medal in gold, first class; and the Damien- Dutton Award in 1964.

  • Cottage in Tanganyika

    1952

    In the Coronation year of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, BELRA were delighted that Her Majesty pledged to continue her support for the organisation. To provide further support for the Child Adoption Scheme, Her Majesty supported the building of new children’s homes, such as this one in Tanganyika.

    A plaque at the cottage reads: This cottage was built in the year of the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Patron and Benefactress of BELRA and this cottage was built in thankful and humble memory of His Majesty KING GEORGE VI Patron and Benefactor of BELRA.

  • Dr. James Ross Ines

    1953

    In 1953, BELRA established the first dedicated leprosy research centre in East Africa.

    The first Director of the East Africa Leprosy Research Centre was an Australian doctor called Dr. James Ross Ines.

    He served between January 1954 and January 1957. He then became the Medical Secretary of BELRA from 1957 to 1966.

  • Lepra van

    1959

    In 1959, BELRA produced the first made to measure shoes to protect ulcerated feet and since that time footwear has been a critical part of our work.

    Lepra still provides free protective, tailor-made footwear to help people to walk comfortably and without fear of possible injury; restoring a sense of independence to people affected by leprosy and enabling them to return to their communities and work for a living.

  • Clofazimine

    1961

    In 1961 BELRA helped to develop Clofazimine (B663).

    The East Africa Leprosy Research Centre played a key role in the trials of B663, which to this day remains a part of the multidrug therapy used for

    treating leprosy.

  • Corgi Lepra van

    1964

    In 1964 the organisation changed its name from BELRA to LEPRA to reflect an understanding of the changing times. Shortly after this, In 1965 the High Commissioner for Malawi and LEPRA’s President, Viscount Boyd, approved an agreement on the Malawi Pilot Leprosy Control project, which subsequently began work.

    The project under Doctor Brownlow David Molesworth, pioneered the use of mobile services and clinics within hard-to-reach communities, using bicycles, and Landrovers. There was even a Corgi toy car version produced to mark the project’s incredible success.

  • Man holding pills

    1975

    In 1975, Lepra became one of the first organisations to implement the use of multidrug therapy (MDT).

    Since 1981, the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided MDT across the world free of cost.

    They estimate that more than 16 million people have been treated with MDT over the past 40 years.

  • International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations

    1976

    Lepra became a full member of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) in 1976.

    Through the programmes of its Member associations, ILEP spans more than 60 countries and 1,000 project locations worldwide. Most of the global expertise in leprosy resides in ILEP’s Members and their in-country partners.

  • People undertaking an operation

    1989

    On 3 August 1989, Lepra’s sister organisation ‘The LEPRA Society of India’ (LEPRA India) held its inaugural meeting in Hyderabad.

    LEPRA India has extensive reach throughout the country, and their organisational independence provides a unique ability to help support the Indian government’s National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP).

  • Blue Peter Appeal

    1996

    In 1996, the children’s television show, Blue Peter, ran a fundraising appeal for Lepra that would go on to change the face of leprosy support and treatment in India forever.

    Children set up bring-and-buy sales across the country, and the response was phenomenal. £2.8 million was raised in total.

  • Blue Peter Centre

    1999

    The Blue Peter Health and Research Centre (BPHRC) was officially opened on December 14th 1999 to provide leprosy, TB and HIV research, to find more effective treatments, and ways to prevent disabilities.

    The BPHRC continues to thrive and grow, and is a shining example of excellence, which will forward research and treatment in India for generations to come.

  • Victoria Hislop

    2005

    In 2005, author and long-term Lepra supporter Victoria Hislop, released the award winning novel ‘The Island’, which helped to shine a new light on this ancient disease.

    Now a Lepra Ambassador, Victoria has since released ‘One August Night’ and the children’s book ‘ Maria’s Island’, which have helped bring awareness of leprosy to new generations of children and adults.

  • Pavers van

    2015

    In 2015, Pavers funded our first mobile footwear unit, which travels across isolated areas of India, producing and delivering custom-made footwear, helping to prevent injury and disability for people affected by leprosy and lymphatic filariasis (LF).

    We now have dedicated community and mobile footwear units across India and Bangladesh, providing vital services to tens of thousands of people every year.

  • Professor Diana Lockwood

    2019

    In 2019 Lepra Trustee and Emeritus Professor Diana Lockwood travelled to India with documentary photographer Tom Bradley to create a thought- provoking series of portraits and real-life stories which challenge the myth and misconceptions surrounding leprosy.

    In the spring of 2023, Diana and Tom took the project to Bangladesh, to find real-life stories of people affected by leprosy in a post-pandemic landscape.

  • Covid deliveries

    2020

    The COVID-19 pandemic caused a national health emergency in India. Lepra helped to provide COVID-19 testing, food aid packages, oxygen concentrators for local hospitals and COVID-19 vaccinations.

    Between 2020 and 2021, Lepra conducted over 5,500 PCR tests, distributed food support and personal protective equipment to 12,364 people, provided 15,523 people with vaccinations and provided 80 oxygen concentrators to local hospitals across the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

  • Mother and Child smiling at each other

    2024

    During Lepra’s centenary in 2024, an ambitious new strategy will be launched to help the organisation provide an even greater contribution toward the WHO 2030 global leprosy strategy.

    Lepra’s 100 years of research and innovative programme design, will continue to provide the very best in evidence-led, person-centred and holistic healthcare to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

  • The Road to 2030