Some people who are affected by leprosy are left with residual disabilities after the infection has been cured; eyes, hands and feet are commonly affected

In addition, many people face long-term problems within their family and community as leprosy continues to carry stigma that leads to discrimination.

Rehabilitation involves a whole range of interventions that attempt to restore the person affected leprosy to as normal a life as possible.

There are two major categories of rehabilitation although most programmes now try to provide both in a holistic manner.

Physical rehabilitation seeks to help people with their normal daily activities. The methods include physiotherapy and occupational therapy, specialised forms of reconstructive surgery to improve the functioning of the hands or feet; prosthetics and mobility aids, and, where eyes have been affected, surgery and other special treatment for eye problems. The goal is to support the physical demands of daily life.

Socio-economic rehabilitation seeks to help people affected by leprosy to rebuild their lives, including their relationships and household economies, both of which are often severely disrupted by leprosy. Many people affected by leprosy face the loss of their jobs, divorce or other forms of rejection. Pushed to margins of society, many find themselves living in slums where the infrastructures completely fail to support basic human needs such as housing, sanitation and education.

Rehabilitation involves informing and reassuring families and communities about leprosy as well as developing specific interventions that help to restore dignity to those affected. One major aim is to empower individuals, enabling them to have more control over their own situations. In countries where discrimination and legislation still exists against people affected by leprosy, advocating on the behalf of those people and educating and enabling them to speak out for themselves is key.

Download ILEP’s Technical Guide on Community Based Rehabilitation