"If existing knowledge about leprosy were conscientiously and persistently applied, this disease could be controlled in our generation and eradicated in the next."
- Dr Stanley Browne, 1971

Mycobacterium leprae, stained pink underneath the microscope. Ganta, Liberia 2012

In the last 40 years, after a great deal of effort, leprosy has been brought down from millions of new cases per year to around 200,000 new cases diagnosed per year - officially that is.
In all but a handful of countries it has been declared 'eliminated'. But it has now reached a plateau.

As I delved further into the subject I realised there were many ways to ask and answer the question 'is leprosy eliminated?':

What it means to have a bacteria and be physically unaffected;
Or have gotten rid of the bacteria (no longer be a "public health risk"), yet still have numb patches of skin, and the dangers it can bring... ulcers, clawed hands, drop-feet, lost digits, limbs, sunken noses, blindness... even latent reactions...
And of course this can lead to stigmitisation from the people around, and perhaps more deadly, certainly more often, stigma from within oneself;

Until 2022, a country was declared eliminated of leprosy if fewer than 1 in 10,000 people have it - yet in somewhere like India, where the government declared leprosy "eliminated" in 2005, it still means that there are more than 120,000 new cases of leprosy per year. And they are now seeing the ramifications of cutting funding as a result of that declaration.

Or those countries in the world where leprosy detection is barely being done, or the countries where figures are unknown, even 'fiddled' because governments are eager to reach this status of 'Leprosy Eliminated', and areas where war has crippled leprosy programmes, and it's just not a priority in the rebuilding of a nation.

Some of these works show physical impairment or disability due to leprosy. In every case there would be no disability if the disease had been caught in the early stages.

This is an ongoing long-term photographic project, to record and illuminate this issue.

Regular, daily photographs and stories go up on my instagram account @isleprosyeliminated.


I took this photo as this woman was diagnosed with leprosy. I hadn't realised at that moment, I found out after she had gone. She was quiet, not showing her emotions. Whether this meant something or not, I still don't know. Physically this woman should have no problems. Okegbala, Nigeria 2009