ILEP (ELEP) was born out of a need to co-ordinate the work of anti-leprosy organisations supporting activities in leprosy endemic countries, to prevent overlap and avoid duplication in funding.

By pooling resources ILEP (ELEP) Member Associations were and are able to use them in a more effective way and reach more patients. Equally this unity extends to a sharing of expertise and local knowledge, thus optimising the impact of the Federation on the global campaign against leprosy.

Prior to 1966 there were several organisations around the world concerned with leprosy. The oldest Member dates its foundation back to 1874, others to the first half of the twentieth century, while the majority of them were created after the Second World War. Most of them owed their birth to the inspiration of exceptional persons such as Father Damien and Wellesley Bailey. Closer to ILEP’s base in Switzerland, several were inspired by charismatic individuals like Raoul Follereau, founder of World Leprosy Day, and Abbé Pierre, creator of the Emmaüs movement for the most needy.

Founded in 1966

Pierre Van den Wijngaert, General Secretary of Les Amis du Père Damien (Damien Foundation), was the catalyst who propelled the creation of the Federation in 1966. Inspired too by the recent creation of the Common Market in Europe, and with the support of Raoul Follereau, he rallied support of various anti-leprosy organisations and organised a series of meetings to discuss ways to work together using a federal model. These moves culminated in this series of landmark events:

  • The 2nd October 1965 meeting in Brussels of the first working group of the European Anti-Leprosy Associations.
  • The formation in Berne on 25th September 1966 of the European Co-ordinating Committee of Anti-Leprosy Associations.
  • The constitution in Paris on 19 April 1969 of ELEP under the name The European Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations.
  • The legal recognition of ELEP in France on 25 October 1971.
  • Pierre Van den Wijngaert became the first General Secretary of ELEP and remained in this position until the end of 1989. He was responsible for establishing the co-ordination structure, which today remains the hallmark of the Federation.
  • The adoption of internationalism in 1975 becoming the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP).
  • Move of the ILEP Secretariat to London in September 1979.
  • The adoption of a new Constitution and Bye-Laws on 31 March 2006, favouring more effective and efficient governance.
  • Move of the ILEP Secretariat to Geneva in 2015.
  • In October 2016, ILEP celebrated its 50th anniversary. See 25th anniversary ILEP Annual News.

The photo above was taken in Bern, 25 September 1966 at Assemblée de Fondation: Marcel Farine (ALES), Raoul Follereau, Dr. Franz Hemerijckx (APD), Pierre Kaelin (CIMAL – Centre d’information mondiale anti-lèpre)


From left to right: Abbé Pierre, Marcel Farine and Raoul Follereau


From right to left: Raoul Follereau, Marcel Farine and Pierre Van Den Wijngaert.


ILEP’s founders. This photograph was taken at the formation of the European Coordinating Committee of the Anti-Leprosy Associations 25 September 1966.

Names written on the back of the photo:

M. Van Den Abeele (FOPERDA – Fondation Père Damien) far left
Father Giovanni Battista Corti (AL/AIFO) second from left
Unknown third from left, back row
Pierre Kaelin (CIMAL – Centre d’information mondiale anti-lèpre) third from left, front row
Eddie Askew (The Leprosy Mission) fourth from left, back row
Dr. Stanley Browne (TLM) fourth from left, front row
Antoine de Halloy de Waulsort (APD – Les Amis du Père Damien) unknown
Marcel Farine (ALES) centre front
Raoul Follereau third from right, front row
Dr. Maurice Gilbert (CIMAL) in between RF and PvdW
Pierre Van Den Wijngaert (APD) second from right, front row
Hermann Kober (DAHW) behind PvdW and FH
Dr. Franz Hemerijckx (APD) far right, front row
Comte Hubert von Ballestrem (DAHW) far right, back row

We are still identifying the names on the photos. If you can clarify further, please let us know.