Updated January 28th, 2024 at 09:07 IST

World Leprosy Day: History, Origin, Significance

World Leprosy Day is a yearly reminder of the resilience of THOSE affected by the disease and the unwavering commitment of people worldwide to eliminate it.

World Leprosy Day | Image:WHO

World Leprosy Day, observed on the last Sunday of January each year, holds historical importance in the global fight against leprosy. This day serves as a reminder of the ongoing battle against the stigma associated with this ancient disease and the need for continued efforts to eradicate it. Let's delve into the history, origin, and significance of World Leprosy Day.


World Leprosy Day traces its roots back to the mid-20th century. It was initiated by Raoul Follereau, a French philanthropist, who dedicated his life to advocating for people affected by leprosy. Follereau, inspired by the selfless work of Dr. Paul Brand and his wife Margaret Brand in treating leprosy patients, aimed to raise awareness and eradicate the deep-seated stigma surrounding the disease.

In 1953, Raoul Follereau established the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP) to unite organizations globally in the fight against leprosy. The first World Leprosy Day was observed on January 30, 1954, marking the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's death, as Gandhi was a symbol of compassion and worked tirelessly to dispel the myths surrounding leprosy.

World Leprosy Day | Image: leprosymission.org


The origin of World Leprosy Day is deeply intertwined with the persistent efforts of individuals and organisations to combat the discrimination faced by those affected by leprosy. Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, has a long history dating back thousands of years. It has been misunderstood and surrounded by social stigma, often leading to isolation and exclusion of those with the disease.


World Leprosy Day was conceived as a platform to challenge the stereotypes associated with leprosy, promote early detection, and emphasise the importance of medical and social support for those affected. Over the years, the day has become a catalyst for fundraising, awareness campaigns, and advocacy to eradicate leprosy and improve the lives of those affected.


The significance of World Leprosy Day lies in its role as a global initiative to raise awareness about leprosy, reduce stigma, and advocate for early detection and treatment. The day serves as an opportunity to highlight the progress made in the fight against leprosy and address the challenges that persist, including discrimination, lack of access to healthcare, and the social and economic impact on affected individuals.

Through various events, educational programs, and outreach activities, World Leprosy Day aims to engage communities, governments, and organisations in a collective effort to eliminate leprosy. It underscores the importance of inclusivity, compassion, and the right to a life free from discrimination for individuals affected by this curable disease.


Published January 28th, 2024 at 09:07 IST