GPZL at the International Leprosy Congress

16 October, 2019 | Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

The Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy (GPZL) was well represented at the International Leprosy Congress in Manila, Philippines in September. GPZL’s participation included the presentation of the partnership’s country model and the model’s recent implementation in Nepal, and the launch and a demonstration of GPZL’s new best practices toolkit.

Secretariat Director, Courtenay Dusenbury, attended the International Leprosy Congress and documented her time in Manila. View her photos to learn more about the partnership’s involvement in the congress and Courtenay’s experience in Manila.


International Leprosy Congress 2019

International Leprosy Congress 2019

Arriving late Friday night meant the team had a free morning on Saturday to take a walk through bustling Manila, joining many others in strolling along the ocean promenade, pausing for a snack of fresh pineapple, and enjoying the sunshine and warm temperatures.

Historical monuments illustrate the long and rich history of the Philippines and brought to mind the long, long time humans have been fighting to end leprosy and its stigma.

It was wonderful to spend several days as observers of a workshop of persons affected by leprosy organized by the Sasakawa Health Foundation. We learned a great deal about team-building, entrepreneurship, challenges and opportunities. The voice of persons who’ve had leprosy is strong and, working together across the globe, getting even stronger.

Very nice to see this old friend, Mr. Amar Timalsina, President of IDEA-Nepal. If you haven’t yet read his book, I highly recommend it. His descriptions of his home country, Nepal, and his experience with leprosy, are beautiful poetry indeed.

And very nice as well to meet this group of new friends, to enjoy fellowship over a good meal, and to get some advice on launching and sustaining social movements through WhatsApp. These community activists’ focus on human rights is making a real difference in their countries and globally.

What an exciting feeling to enter the convention center hall and see so many persons assembling, from all over the world – young to old, professors, researchers, persons who’ve experienced leprosy, students, communications experts, economists, community health workers, program directors, physical therapists and more … all excitedly waiting for the conference to begin.

Dr. Christian Johnson, Dr. Marivic Balagon and her team and Dr. Paul Saunderson had done an incredible job of organizing the meeting. Dr. Johnson started things off with a warm welcome and well-deserved applause.

Dr. Huong Tu Giang Tran directs disease control programs at the WHO Western Pacific Office. She has only been at the WHO office in Manila for a short time but is already sharing her expertise from work in Vietnam around the region.

Leprosy is NOT neglected among tropical diseases, said Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, to very loud applause.

Nor can we forget the real impact of leprosy on children, and their families, said Jan van Berkel.

We need to get leprosy relief unstuck, said GPZL Board Chair Bill Simmons. Together, with planning, determination and the right tools, we can do it.

The discrimination against those with leprosy comes from multiple sources and is directly proportional to their social vulnerability, said Alice Cruz. She is effectively using “quiet diplomacy” to fight human rights violations around the globe, in partnership with persons affected by leprosy.

Many participated in a session on the GPZL Country Model and Toolkit organized by Dr. Christine Fenenga. The model and toolkit has now been tested in Nepal and is in the process of being tested in Morocco.

Led by chair Bart Vanderplaeste, other work group members include national program leaders, WHO and those working in ILEP member-NGOs. Dr. Rabindra, leader of Nepal’s global program, outlined the results of a recent evaluation visit and next steps for the collaboration in Nepal.

Peter Steinmann’s work to develop an LPEP toolkit was of great interest.

So many delicious lunches and dinners, thanks to the effort of Dr. Maravic and team. We later heard about an exciting dinner and dancing with a friendly regional competition. Sadly, the 12-hour time zone change had finally caught up and our plan to join in the dancing had to be abandoned.

Till we see you all again, we will keep with us the excitement of new friends and new ideas, and the wonderful community and collaboration, that was the ILC 2019.