The challenges and opportunities of the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

Personal message from the ILEP president 

Dear ILEP members,

The launch of the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy took place last week. This moment marks an important milestone in our fight for zero leprosy.

I want to thank Tanya and her team and many of you for actively contributing to the important role that ILEP has played and will be playing in this new endeavour.  And I thank you, members of ILEP for the mandate that you have given us to represent ILEP in this initiative. Our discussions have been very valuable and stimulating to represent ILEP in this new platform.

What are the opportunities and challenges that the Global Partnership opens up?

How can it bring the end of leprosy closer and how can we work towards designing the roadmap towards Zero Leprosy?

The Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy will coordinate action in three key areas:
(1) accelerating research in new diagnostic and therapeutic tools, interventions, and strategies to interrupt leprosy transmission;
(2) mobilizing technical assistance and expertise to strengthen existing national programs and accelerate translation of new evidence into action; and
(3) increasing advocacy and fundraising.

So far the leprosy world has seen many promising initiatives in research, in programme innovation, programme effectiveness and advocacy. The interesting experience of collaboration within ILEP is a valuable contribution to the Global Partnership, which can help us broaden collaboration to include donors, scientists, Ministries of Health and others.

This is what I expect the Global Partnership can deliver. Not as a top down superstructure to tell stakeholders what to do or not to do, but as a vehicle for coordination, mutual inspiration and resource mobilisation.

Building that roadmap to zero leprosy is going to be an exciting venture. We will again be facing the challenges of the Symphony orchestra and must approach it accordingly:

  • Accept that different parts and scores will be played at various instruments
  • Listen and learn carefully and harmonise, so that the resulting symphony becomes much more effective and appealing to the outside audience and the orchestra itself.

There is a wealth of promising developments at hand and underway that should be part of the composition that will end in the ‘Symphony for Zero Leprosy’.

The Global Partnership should design a road map towards zero leprosy, based on a complete overview of present and past initiatives that may contribute to this ambition. Then we can discuss and agree on priorities to:

  • fill gaps in research or in programme or advocacy practices,
  • create win-wins that result from combining and complementing various initiatives.

Indeed with the formation of the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy we have only just begun our attempt to coordinate, inspire and accelerate. An aligned agenda and roadmap to zero leprosy is the only way to get attention and access to additional funding by big NTD donors. So far the leprosy world was not able to present its case for Zero Leprosy convincingly enough to get that access.

I am personally confident that we can, if we really manage to focus on collaboration and integrated approaches, combining our research findings and innovations and demonstrate that we can operationalize them.

ILEP has an important role to play here, as its members are working in 62 leprosy countries. We are the only partner in the Global Partnership that has track record in working with the wide variety of stakeholders that is needed: national programmes, regional health authorities, WHO, other disease programmes, persons affected and their organisations, volunteers, scientists, researchers, donors and the corporate sector.

Accelerating research, mobilising expertise and new insights in leprosy programmes and advocacy for zero transmission, zero disability and zero discrimination through the Global Partnership is going to raise important questions for ILEP itself as a strong federation and platform of anti-leprosy NGOs that has a key role to play in the Global Partnership.

I welcome your thoughts and ideas and your commitment to make the Global Partnership a historic milestone in realising our vision of a world free of leprosy.

Jan van Berkel
ILEP President