Leprosy Elimination Progress: Reviewing the Global Situation
Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, continues to affect the lives of thousands worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over 200,000 new cases of leprosy are detected each year, with many countries still reporting over 1,000 new cases annually. While the disease remains endemic in some regions, global efforts over recent decades have made significant strides on leprosy elimination, progress toward bringing the disease under control.
Current Leprosy Prevalence
Several countries across South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America account for the majority of new leprosy cases reported globally. India has the highest number of new cases, followed by Brazil and Indonesia. Other nations with high leprosy prevalence include Bangladesh, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Tanzania.
While leprosy has been eliminated as a public health concern globally and in most countries, pockets of high prevalence persist in certain impoverished areas marked by overcrowding, poor sanitation, and limited access to healthcare. Stigma also continues hindering early diagnosis and treatment.
Working Toward a Leprosy-Free World
In 1991, the World Health Assembly set a goal to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem by 2000. Elimination was defined as reducing prevalence to less than 1 case per 10,000 people. The WHO Strategy 2016-2020 aims to accelerate efforts toward a leprosy-free world.
Thanks to multi-drug therapy (MDT), the prevalence rate has dropped significantly over the past few decades. The number of new cases detected annually has fallen from over 5 million in the 1980s to less than 200,000 today. Of the 121 countries where leprosy remains endemic, 119 have achieved elimination at the national level.
While celebrating the progress made, ongoing transmission in some areas means continued vigilance is needed. Key challenges include improving early diagnosis and treatment, reducing stigma, and reaching marginalized populations.
Leprosy is curable, but lack of awareness and access to care means many patients are diagnosed late, leading to nerve damage and disabilities. With compassion and understanding, we can help remove the stigma surrounding this disease. Organizations like GFA World are bridging the gap through awareness programs and supporting medical clinics and hospitals providing quality care to leprosy patients across South Asia. Join us in bringing hope and healing to communities affected by leprosy.Learn more about leprosy disease understanding
 World Health Organization: WHO. “Leprosy.” World Health Organization: WHO, January 27, 2023. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/leprosy.
 “Global Leprosy Strategy 2016−2020: Accelerating towards a Leprosy-Free World.” Accessed November 4, 2023. https://www.who.int/publications-detail-redirect/9789290225096.
 “Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease).” Accessed November 4, 2023. https://www.who.int/data/gho/data/themes/topics/topic-details/GHO/leprosy.