Facts About Leprosy In India

  • 55% of leprosy cases in the world are in India[1].
  • 127,000 new cases of leprosy were reported in India between 2010-11[2].
  • Government statistics under estimate the extent of leprosy according to research organisations, NGOs and some medical personnel who argue that leprosy cases are on the rise[3]
  • Children are also affected by leprosy.  12,463 new cases of leprosy between 2010-11 were children and in nine states/UT more than 10% of new cases detected were children[4]
  • Leprosy is particularly prevalent among the poorest and most marginalised communities due to their lack of access to healthcare, poor sanitation and congested living spaces.  14.31% of new cases were among Scheduled Tribes and 18.69% among Scheduled Castes[5] between 2010-11 although these groups accounted for only 8.2% and 16.2%[6] of the population respectively in 2001.
  • In some areas leprosy is a growing problem.  14 states in India[7] showed an increased number of new cases of leprosy detected in 2010-11 compared to 2009-10[8]
  • Many districts continue to have incidences of leprosy higher than the WHO benchmark for elimination of leprosy although India officially ‘eliminated’ leprosy in 2005.  Between 2010-11, 77 districts had a number of new leprosy cases per year higher than the WHO benchmark[9]
  • Some leprosy patients suffer deformities which can result in lifelong disabilities and require extensive and continued care.  8,462 new cases of disability were reported and 2,570 reconstructive surgeries were performed on patients with deformities[10] between 2010-11.
  • Relatives of people with leprosy are also negatively affected.  Lack of knowledge about leprosy results in stigma and discrimination against both people who have or have had leprosy as well as people they are related to or associate with (e.g. children are excluded from school because their parent has or has had leprosy).


[1] Weekly epidemiological record -2 september 2011, WHO, No. 36, 2011, 86, 389–400, http://www.who.int/lep/situation/en/

[2] NLEP (2011) ‘Progress Report for the year 2010-11 ending on 31st March 2011’, Central Leprosy Division, Directorate General of Health Services, New Delhi

[4] NLEP (2011) ‘Progress Report for the year 2010-11 ending on 31st March 2011’, Central Leprosy Division, Directorate General of Health Services, New Delhi

[5] NLEP (2011) ‘Progress Report for the year 2010-11 ending on 31st March 2011’, Central Leprosy Division, Directorate General of Health Services, New Delhi

[6] http://www.censusindia.gov.in/Census_Data_2001/India_at_glance/scst.aspx

[7] (i) Orissa, (ii) Assam (iii) Maharashtra, (iv) M.P., (v) D&N Haveli, (vi) Arunachal Pradesh (vii) Kerala, (viii) Himachal Pradesh, (ix) J & K (x) Meghalaya, (xi) Mizoram, (xii) Andaman & Nicobar Islands, (xiii) Chandigarh U/T, and (xiv) Puducherry.

[8] NLEP (2011) ‘Progress Report for the year 2010-11 ending on 31st March 2011’, Central Leprosy Division, Directorate General of Health Services, New Delhi

[9] ‘Progress Report for the year 2010-11 ending on 31st March 2011’, Central Leprosy Division, Directorate General of Health Services, New Delhi stated that the annual new case detection rate in 70 districts is > 20/100,000 population and in 7 districts is > 50/100,000 population compared to the WHO benchmark of <10/100,000 population which constitutes the elimination of leprosy.

[10] NLEP (2011) ‘Progress Report for the year 2010-11 ending on 31st March 2011’, Central Leprosy Division, Directorate General of Health Services, New Delhi

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Is it ok to use the word "leper"?

No. The term "leper" is not acceptable because it identifies a person only by their disease and the term increases stigma and undermines their feeling of self worth. 

People affected by leprosy have stated that they do not accept the use of the term leper and, along with the WHO, ILEP and its partners, feel that they should be identified as:

  • a person with leprosy
  • an individual diagnosed with leprosy 
  • people affected by leprosy