A world in which leprosy no longer destroys lives and where persons with disabilities participate fully in society. That is our goal. In 2016, these were our most important focal points in our work.
As the Netherlands Leprosy Relief (NLR) was heading towards its 50th anniversary in 2017, our organization had to deal with paradoxical challenges. On the one hand NLR was confronted with a second year of declining income from legacies, a source of income we have no direct influence over. This decline forced us to reduce budgets and to make painful decisions to secure our operations’ sustainability.
On the other hand we continued to play a leading innovative role in the worldwide fight against leprosy by developing new breakthrough approaches towards stopping the disease’s transmission.
The LPEP project, the innovative introduction of post-exposure prophylaxis to protect direct social contacts of new leprosy patients from developing leprosy, gained momentum in 2016. 34,789 direct social contacts, such as new leprosy patients’ household members, colleagues, classmates and neighbours in India, Indonesia and Nepal received a single dose rifampicin as preventive treatment. The National Leprosy Programs of Nepal and India decided to upscale this preventive approach to more high-endemic districts. International attention and support for this important innovation is increasing.
In 2016 NLR started preparing a next innovative step to stop the transmission of leprosy. A bold funding proposal was presented to the Dutch National Postcode Lottery’s Dream Fund, which funds breakthrough projects in sustainable development. The proposal combines the first results of the introduction of post-exposure prophylaxis with a newly available simple screening test, and can make it possible to trace people infected with the leprosy bacteria before they develop leprosy symptoms. Strong preventive treatment would bring us closer to stopping transmission at an earlier stage of infection. The Lottery will decide on the proposal early 2017.
The combined prevention of disabilities for people affected by leprosy and those affected by lymphatic filariasis is gaining momentum in Mozambique and India. Formation and training of combined self-care groups also reduces the stigma and social exclusion of people affected by each disease. Larger groups, effective self-care and mutual recognition of similarities, contribute to confidence and empowerment.
In 2016 NLR endorsed the Triple Zero campaign launched by ILEP, the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations:
In 2016 NLR began to align the focus of its program strategy with these 3 ambitious aims. The decentralisation of our regional offices, converting them into local NGOs, is making progress. A strong, joint focus in our program strategies has to provide the basis for synergy, joint fundraising and joint learning in the new NLR Alliance that is now under construction.
In 2016 NLR started preparing a next innovative step to stop the transmission of leprosy
We wish to thank everyone who contributed to our work in 2016 via personal involvement, financial support or collaboration. Thanks to you, NLR was able to, despite our financial challenges, once more really contribute to the improvement of the lives of tens of thousands of men, women and children who are affected by leprosy by enabling them to reduce the physical, mental and social impact that leprosy has on their and their families’ lives.
Jan van Berkel
Bram van Ojik
Chair, Supervisory Board