The Leprosy Mission

Leprosy defeated, lives transformed

We are a global Christian organisation leading the fight against leprosy.

Following Jesus Christ, we seek to bring about transformation; breaking the chains of leprosy and empowering people to attain healing, dignity and life in all its fullness.

No one should suffer because of a preventable and treatable disease.

We work with people of all faiths and none to defeat leprosy and transform the lives of people affected.

The Leprosy Mission’s Global Fellowship works in 28 countries.

Our focus is on ten countries in Africa and Asia – Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Mozambique, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Sudan. These places have high rates of leprosy or lack the services or opportunities needed by people affected.

As well as supporting people living with leprosy today, we serve future generations by working to end the transmission of the disease. So they may be born into a world free from leprosy.

We partner with governments, churches and other organisations. Most importantly, we work with people affected by leprosy to achieve our vision – leprosy defeated, lives transformed.

We fight leprosy, disability and discrimination

Through this integrated approach, we offer a springboard to better health, self-sufficiency and new hope.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognise that the dignity of the individual is fundamental and no one should be left behind. People affected by leprosy, especially those disabled by the disease, are often most marginalised. So our mission is as urgent and relevant as ever. We stand with the people many would rather forget.

In 1874 our founders Wellesley and Alice Bailey saw the suffering of people living with leprosy and were determined to do something about it. Like them, we are committed to defeating leprosy and showing the lover of Christ to those it affects.

Our Christian identity is at the heart of who we are and everything we do. Our values are:

Compassion: As Jesus did, we care deeply for others particularly those adversely affected by leprosy and those most in need, We feel their pain and are motivated to walk alongside them in Christ-like love, doing all we can to support their physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

Integrity: We work with honesty and transparency with a seamless correlation between our message and our actions. We foster open communication, where there is no fear of sharing challenges and successes. We respect our partners and work together to find solutions to problems and achieve common goals.

Inclusion: We value all individuals, believing they were made in the image of God. We promote equal access and opportunity to all, and are committed to removing discrimination and other barriers, enabling people to live life in all its fullness.

Justice: We promote dignity, respecting and fostering human rights. We champion the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) treaty and the Principles and Guidelines for the Elimination of Discrimination Against People Affected by Leprosy and their Family Members. We have appropriate mechanisms in place to actively children and vulnerable adults from harm and abuse.

Humility: We treat everyone as equals and do not see ourselves as superior to others. We seek to serve the most marginalised, who often live in difficult environments. We are willing to get our hands dirty as we serve others, just as Jesus was willing to wash the feet of his disciples. We value the opinions of others and are open to listen and learn. We solicit and respond to feedback from partners and those we serve.

Our History

1869 – Wellesley Bailey (1846-1937) first travels to India, intending to join the police force. But after lodging with a German missionary, God calls him to missionary work instead. While training to teach at a school in Punjab, he witnesses the devastating effects of leprosy for the first time.

1873 – Wellesley returns to Ireland with his wife Alice, having seen people severely disabled by leprosy, living in extreme poverty and rejected by society. They decide to raise awareness, giving talks about the people they met.

1874 – Wellesley and Alice start The Mission to Lepers. People begin to support the Mission financially and through prayer.

Late 1870s – The Mission supports 100 people affected by leprosy in India. Wellesley and Alice continue to visit people affected by the disease and get support for their work.


1888 – Our first hospital opens in Purulia, West Bengal. It’s still one of our flagship medical centres today.

1906 – Wellesley travels further, extending the Mission’s work to China, New Zealand, Australia, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. During this tour, Wellesley gives more that 150 talks, meets many government officials and visits countless people affected by leprosy.


1917 – Wellesley retires, with the Mission he created running 87 projects in 12 countries.

1938 – Another leprosy hospital opens in Faizabad, India.

1939-45 – The Second World War affects much of the organisations work. Patients are dispersed as hospitals are caught in the conflict.


1946 – Dr Paul Brand (1914-2003), an orthopaedic surgeon, moves to India to teach at a hospital there. He encounters people affected by leprosy for the first time. He is inspired to research treatments for the disabilities caused by the disease.

Late 1940s – Dr Brand becomes the first surgeon in the world to use reconstructive surgery on the hands and feet or people affected by leprosy. The techniques he pioneered are still in use today.


1950s – The drug dapsone comes into use as an early cure for leprosy, enabling millions of patients to be treated. However, it is not completely effective.

1960s – Leprosy bacteria develop resistance against dapsone. Scientists search for a new cure.

1965 – The Mission to Lepers is renamed The Leprosy Mission. to avoid the negative connotations of the word ‘leper’, now understood to be a derogatory term.

1970a – The Mission extends its work outside hospitals, reaching people’s homes and often remote communities, to transform lives.


1981 – The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a new cure for leprosy – multidrug therapy (MDT). This combines dapsone with clofazimine and rifampicin. It is still used almost 40 years later.

1980s and 90s – More and more people are cured of leprosy. The mission cares for those affected through rehabilitation and campaigning for lasting social and economic change.


1989 – Diane. Princess of Wales a Leprosy Mission hospital in Sitanala, Indonesia, against the advice of officials and the press. She is filmed siting with leprosy patients, talking to them and – most controversially – touching them.

1990 – The Princess of Wales becomes a patron of The Leprosy Mission, visiting projects in India, Nepal and Zimbabwe.


1999 – After her death in 1997, a grant from the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fund establishes the Diana Princess of Wales Health Education and Media Centre in Noida, near New Delhi, India. Its purpose is to promote the rights and inclusion of people affected by leprosy in Indian society through advocacy.

2000s – The Mission supports communities with disaster relief, following the tsunami in Sri Lanka and the Nepal eathquakes.


2011 – The Leprosy Mission Global Fellowship is founded, a federation of 28 members working together towards a shared vision to defeat leprosy.

2018 – The Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy, made up of ministries of health, pharmaceutical company Novartis and non-government organisations, is founder. The Leprosy Mission takes an active role to promote unity and the sharing of best practice in the fight against leprosy.

2020 and beyond – The Mission is recognised across the world for excellence in the fields of leprosy, neglected tropical diseases and disability. We pioneer ground-breaking surgical techniques and rehabilitation programmes that transform lives.

Our work goes beyond medical care for a holistic approach that includes early detection, education, rehabilitation, water and sanitation, community reintegration, counselling and psychosocial support, research and advocacy. Together with our partners, we research a diagnostic test and vaccine for leprosy.


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This website is sponsored by the members of St Pauls’ & St Augustine’s Church

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