World Leprosy Day

Supriya Jain
Dec 22, 2023 By Supriya Jain
Originally Published on Feb 04, 2022
Fact-checked by Gowri Rao
World Leprosy Day informs persons about the treatment of patients living with the condition.
Age: 0-99
Read time: 3.6 Min

Where is World Leprosy Day observed?

World Leprosy Day is an international event which is observed all over the world in all the nations on the last Sunday of January, every year. Since leprosy is an internationally occurring disease, there is an active need for spreading global awareness about it, this day is observed worldwide. 

Who is World Leprosy Day observed by?

World Leprosy Day was initiated by French Humanitarian and Philanthropist Raoul Follereau and is observed by volunteers and activists primarily and even people who have fought and overcome leprosy.

When did World Leprosy Day first start?

World Leprosy Day was first observed in 1954. 

Who started World Leprosy Day?

World Leprosy Day is observed on the last Sunday of January every year. This day was selected by a French philanthropist who was greatly inspired by Indian activist and leader Mahatma Gandhi.

Since Gandhi treated people affected with leprosy with compassion and worked to spread public awareness, Raoul Follereau decided to observe World Leprosy Day on the last Sunday of January, which in 1954 fell on January 31, one day after the death anniversary of Gandhi; to create awareness and combat negative social implications of the disease. 

Mahatma Gandhi played a vital role in creating awareness about leprosy.

History And Timeline

Now that you know the basics of World Leprosy Day, let's get into the details!

Symptoms Defined

Symptoms resembling leprosy were defined by Hippocrates who is also known as the Father of Medicine in 460 BC.

460 BC

Documentary Evidence Found

In 1824, documentary evidence of leprosy was found in ancient texts of the Greeks, Romans, Arabs as well as Indian Civilizations.


Actual Cause Identified

In 1873, Hansen was the first person to identify the actual cause of the disease, which is why it is called Hansen’s disease. As European colonization of the Americas and Polynesia began, the disease got spread in these parts too.


Important Research Conducted

Between the '40s and '50s, medicines and treatments began to be available on a large scale and even free for some parts of the world. As a result, the number of infected people which was over 5.6 million in the 1980s, has come down to 216,000 worldwide in 2020.

20th Century

World Leprosy Day

French humanitarian Raoul Follereau selected this day in the year 1954 to make sure it coincides with the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

January 30, 1954

Traditions And Customs

Creating awareness around the condition and its cure is the main rationale of World Leprosy Day. World Leprosy Day is observed across the world in order to make people aware that leprosy can be cured and there is no stigma around this day.

World Leprosy Day observed the contribution of Mahatama Gandhi towards the cause of people affected by leprosy.

Ways To Observe World Leprosy Day

There are various activities that you can engage in to observe World Leprosy Day:

Hold public outreach and educational events in collaboration with NGOs.

Organize events where medical professionals share insights about leprosy.

Visit people affected by leprosy and offer them assistance.

Participate in rallies and marathons organized for lepers.

Facts And Stats

  • The maximum number of leprosy cases today come primarily from Southeast Asian nations as well as Africa. World Leprosy Day began in the year of 1954 and still remains relevant.
  • Mahatma Gandhi had great compassion for those suffering from leprosy and hence, the date was chosen as a tribute to him.
  • In the 1900s, when awareness about this illness started to be spread through these campaigns, the numbers started dropping rapidly. As of 2019, over 200,000 cases were reported worldwide. Today about 200 cases appear each year in the USA. India and Africa still remain the biggest leprosy-infected regions of the world.

Why do we observe World Leprosy Day?

To spread awareness and remove the stigma around the disease. 

What is the theme of World Leprosy Day 2021?

The themes are to 'beat leprosy, end stigma, and advocate for mental well-being'.

On which day was World Leprosy Day celebrated in 2021?

January 31, 2021, which is the last Sunday of January.

Who coined World Leprosy Day?

French activist Raoul Follereau coined the World Leprosy Day.  

How does World Leprosy Day motivate patients?

It would encourage them to not be ashamed or scared and get diagnosed and treated early. 

How is funding done for patients?

Patients are not required to pay any money in some countries like India. The treatment is free of cost and funding is obtained from government sources. 

How much money is contributed towards World Leprosy Day?

No concrete information is available regarding the exact amount of money contributed towards World Leprosy Day.

When Is This Day Celebrated

  • Sunday, January 26, 2020
  • Sunday, January 31, 2021
  • Sunday, January 30, 2022
  • Sunday, January 29, 2023
  • Sunday, January 28, 2024

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Supriya Jain

Bachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

Supriya Jain picture

Supriya JainBachelor of Commerce, Master of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

As a skilled member of the Kidadl team, Shruti brings extensive experience and expertise in professional content writing. With a Bachelor's degree in Commerce from Punjab University and an MBA in Business Administration from IMT Nagpur, Shruti has worked in diverse roles such as sales intern, content writer, executive trainee, and business development consultant. Her exceptional writing skills cover a wide range of areas, including SOP, SEO, B2B/B2C, and academic content.

Read full bio >
Fact-checked by Gowri Rao

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

Gowri Rao picture

Gowri RaoBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics

With a bachelor's degree in Economics from Krea University, Gowri is a highly skilled data analyst and an expert in regression and causation modeling. Her interests in economic trends, finance, and investment research complement her professional expertise. In addition to her professional pursuits, Gowri enjoys swimming, running, and playing the drums, and she is also a talented tutor.

Read full bio >