Header image for news printout

World Leprosy Day

Video message by Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

29 January 2021

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought home many lessons about the universal right to health.

Now, on World Leprosy Day, it is time for all of us to look at how those lessons can improve our support to the human rights and dignity of people affected by leprosy.

Around the world, leprosy remains a neglected and stigmatised disease.

It can easily be cured if it is detected and treated early. But if leprosy is left untreated, it can lead to disabilities and chronic pain.

And yet, under human rights law, health-care is not a privilege. It is not an ordinary service that can be adequately addressed by market forces – something that people with low incomes, or living in poorly serviced zones, just have to learn to live without. It is a right.

As all States have acknowledged, in agreeing to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, all people are entitled to a system that gives them access to the highest attainable standard of health.

Moreover, as the COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates clearly, access to universal health coverage protects everyone from harm. It is among the most powerful investments we can make in the economic, social and political well-being of our entire society.

Every country needs to take immediate and long term steps to advance access to quality health-care for everyone – including people affected by leprosy.

We also need to tackle all forms of discrimination – whether based on gender, ethnicity, belief, disability, administrative status, caste, medical conditions or any other characteristic.

Discrimination harms us all.

It is time to stand up for human rights.