9 May 2023 · Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy

Letter from Leadership Team: Announcement of Changes at GPZL

Date:   May 9, 2023

To: Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy Members

From:    GPZL Leadership Team

Subject: Announcement of Key Changes at GPZL

In March 2018, a global array of stakeholders convened an inaugural meeting in Colchester, UK, to launch the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy (GPZL). This partnership breathed new life into stakeholders’ commitment to end leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, and leprosy-related disability, stigma, and discrimination.

Five years after our launch, the GPZL Steering Committee began a review through discussions in Hyderabad, India, at the International Leprosy Congress. In the words of Bill Simmons, GPZL Leadership Team Chair, “The commitment of our global stakeholders requires that we scrutinize our work to make progress toward zero meaningfully.  We must now take steps to build on the learnings of the past five years to focus and enhance our work for even greater success in the years to come.”

As a result of the five-year review, GPZL is pleased to announce changes to further accelerate leprosy elimination efforts. GPZL is now taking action to narrow our focus and streamline our organizational structure to interrupt the transmission of leprosy. The Partnership realizes its value in convening stakeholders, linking expertise, and empowering and leveraging the collective strengths of our members to interrupt the transmission of leprosy. This intensified focus is intended to more fully support the WHO Global Leprosy Strategy and support the development and implementation of tools to interrupt transmission. 

 GPZL’s new approach and the resulting streamlining of its organizational structure will mean closing our secretariat at the Task Force for Global Health as of June 30, 2023. GPZL is proud to have had the support of the Task Force for Global Health these past few years. We would not be where we are today without their support.

Patrick O’Carroll, CEO of the Task Force for Global Health, said, “It has been an honor to house the GPZL secretariat among our other global health programs here at the Task Force.  We are committed to supporting the Partnership as they pursue their more specific focus and develop new ways to manage the work of GPZL for the future.” GPZL will hire an interim director to manage the transition. They will work closely with the Leadership Team to establish an organizational structure driven by the needs of GPZL’s new strategic plan.

GPZL and the Task Force will continue to coordinate and collaborate as the Task Force has other programs that share a common interest with GPZL, including the Neglected Tropical Diseases Support Center (NTD-SC), the Focus Area for Compassion and Ethics (FACE), and the Health Campaign Effectiveness Coalition.

GPZL leadership and the Task Force for Global Health would like to celebrate the successes that GPZL achieved in its first five years. GPZL has grown to include more than 600 individual members, 100 organizational members, and 12 national partnerships. The work of the Partnership has included advancing leprosy research, working with National Leprosy Programmes to develop country-led, customized strategies to end leprosy, and leading advocacy and resource mobilization efforts. The inclusion and involvement of persons affected is an operating principle of GPZL, and the Partnership will strive to improve its effectiveness in this area in the years to come.

Over the past five years, GPZL has served as a convening entity, bringing together experts from around the world to achieve the following:

  • GPZL defined a comprehensive Zero Leprosy Research Agenda and has convened researchers to address key research agenda priorities, including developing two target product profiles for leprosy diagnostic tools that will help diagnose leprosy more accurately and effectively.
  • In partnership with National Leprosy Programmes, GPZL has facilitated the development of eight national strategic plans to end leprosy. These plans outline activities that countries will undertake to reach zero leprosy targets.
  • GPZL has fostered new commitments to leprosy work at the national and international levels, including significant funding commitments from partners to support leprosy and skin NTD elimination efforts.

Alongside these achievements, we have faced several challenges: maintaining momentum during a pandemic, tailoring our support to a diverse group of country partners, acknowledging funding constraints, and engaging stakeholders at the local, national, and international levels.

The experience gained over the past 5 years puts GPZL in an excellent position to focus efforts on interrupting the transmission of leprosy.  This exciting moment represents the power of the diverse leprosy community to convene to ensure we maintain efforts to eliminate this stubborn disease. The Leadership Team looks forward to reporting even greater plans and progress over the coming years.