There are many myths and misconceptions surrounding neglected diseases such as leprosy and lymphatic filariasis, leading to extreme prejudice from communities and a deep sense of shame.
Laws still discriminate against people affected by diseases. In India there are 17 laws which discriminate against people with leprosy, such as people with visible signs of leprosy are prohibited from travelling on trains.
People with disabilities who are unable to work are also denied government benefits, leaving them no opportunity but to beg for money to support their families.
Thousands of people who have previously been affected by leprosy are still forced to live in shocking conditions in leprosy colonies across India and Bangladesh. They often fear how they would be received by outside communities if they returned.
Due to urban growth, the land where the colonies sit has increased in value and become highly sought after for property expansion.
The people living in the colonies are under threat of eviction with no income and nowhere to live.
We actively work with national and state networks of people affected by leprosy and disability in India and Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
In India, these networks represent nearly 300,000 people living in more than 800 leprosy colonies and help them to claim their rights to the land where the leprosy colonies stand so that they can build houses and have a place to call their ‘home’, with basic amenities such as electricity and water.
In Bangladesh we support networks of people living with disabilities to advocate for their own rights, teaching them about their basic human rights and finding them opportunities to directly meet with government representatives and local authorities.
Every year, our community health workers help hundreds claim disability and old-age pensions so people do not have to beg for a living.
Thanks to our advocacy efforts in Bihar, people disabled by leprosy in colonies had their disability benefit increased from Rs200 (£2) to Rs1,800 (£18) a month. In Bangladesh, advocacy has meant that some villages now have electricity connections and new access roads.