What is Leprosy?

Leprosy or Hansen's disease causes disfiguring skin lesions and skin lumps, and peripheral nerve damage leading to muscle weakness and loss of sensation in arms and legs. Left untreated it is a disease of disability, disfigurement and displacement.

The bacteria that causes leprosy - Mycobacterium leprae - multiplies very slowly; the incubation period of the disease varies between 2-5 years but it can be as long as 20 years. Transmission is by droplet infection through frequent and close contact with untreated cases.


If left untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. People with long-term untreated leprosy may become blind and lose the use of their hands and feet due to repeated injury caused by the lack of feeling in those areas.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 182,000 people, mainly in Asia and Africa, were affected at the beginning of 2012. Nepal has the 4th highest incidence of leprosy in the world.

Closeup of leprotic hands

Stigma and Superstition

Historically, leprosy-affected people were abandoned and incarcerated in remote leper colonies. Age-old cultural beliefs are deeply embedded and leprosy is still considered not as a disease but as a curse from the Gods for bad deeds done in a past life. Leprosy-affected people are feared and reviled and continue to be abandoned by their families and ostracised from their communities.

How you can help

Because we have no running costs, every penny donated by people like you goes directly to helping people like Bir and Parbati, whose lives have been blighted by this disease. Read their leprosy success stories and find out how they overcame their illness and turned their lives around with Promise Nepal's help.  Every little bit you can give makes a world of difference to them.