University of Essex students and researchers to help overcome leprosy in India, Bangladesh and around the world, in partnership with Lepra

New Delhi : UK-based University of Essex today announced a partnership with international charity Lepra that will allow University of Essex students and researchers to contribute to overcoming leprosy in India, Bangladesh and around the world. Working together they will also address the current and pressing issues such as human rights and advocacy, medical and para-medical science, social science as well as human science. Lepra and the University of Essex will collaborate on projects and academic research to advance the fields of public and global health. UN Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy Alice Cruz will launch the partnership between Lepra and the University of Essex through a virtual event.

Alice Cruz will give the keynote address at the virtual launch event titled ‘We will overcome leprosy together’. Her address will be followed by a panel discussion with people affected by leprosy, doctors, scholars, and WHO representatives. The virtual launch will with help on Wednesday, 13 July 2022, 3 PM London / 7:30 PM India.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is a mildly infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium leprae. The bacteria affect the skin, peripheral nerves, and the eyes. If leprosy is recognised in its early stages, it can be treated easily and it will not cause any disabilities.

Leprosy is curable with a combination of antibiotics, known as multidrug therapy (MDT). The World Health Organisation (WHO) provides MDT free of charge to all endemic countries.

Professor David O’Mahony, University of Essex’s Dean of Partnerships (Research), said: “We’re really excited about our partnership with Lepra, and this event will help highlight how together we will be able to work and cooperate on the important work that Lepra delivers across the world in the combat against leprosy. There are wide range of opportunities for our respective organisations and for our researchers and students – from undergraduates to PhD students – to benefit from this partnership and we look forward to working together.”

Jimmy Innes, CEO, Lepra said, “I’m delighted with this new partnership between Lepra and the University of Essex. We both share the same physical home in Colchester, and we both come with rich and diverse histories that offer us great complementarity. For Lepra, we relish the chance to work with the university’s students and staff, to help engage in our work addressing leprosy in India and Bangladesh, and in pursuit of a world that is free from prejudice and disability due to leprosy.”

Panel members of ‘We will overcome leprosy together’ will include representatives from the University of Essex’s Institute of Public Health and Wellbeing and Human Rights Centre plus the Blue Peter Public Health and Research Centre in India and the World Health Organization’s Regional Office for South-East Asia. The event panel will include Mr Rajni Singh, Bihar State Coordinator, Lepra; Dr Aparna Srikantam, Director of Lepra Blue Peter Public Health and Research Centre in India; and Dr Venkata Ranganadha Rao Pemmaraju, Ag Team leader, Global Leprosy Programme, World Health Organization, Regional Office for South-East Asia; and Dr Asrat Mengiste, NTD Technical advisor, Centre for Innovative Drug Development and Therapeutic Trials for Africa, College of Health Sciences Addis Ababa University.

Those attending will also hear testimonials from Ms Manikyamma Kummarapalli, Lab Assistant for Lepra at the Blue Peter Public Health and Research Centre, India, and Businessman and Entrepreneur Mr Md Shah Ajom Shumon, who is a Community Leader and Secretary of Pabna District Federation of the People affected by Leprosy in Bangladesh.

Last year, despite the global pandemic and lockdowns, Lepra directly reached more than 290,000 people through diagnosis, treatment and holistic care. More than 225,000 people were further engaged in their home communities through health education and events to raise awareness of leprosy and other neglected diseases, to reduce transmission and promote wellbeing.