Leprosy (or Morbus Hansen) is a chronic infectious disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium leprae or M. lepromatosis. Leprosy affects the skin, nerves, and eyes. With early diagnosis and treatment, leprosy is curable. However, inadequate management can cause irreversible nerve damage that can lead to chronic wounds, disabilities, and deformities.

a nurse

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A nurse from Sumba Foundation performing a slit-skin smear to confirm the diagnosis of leprosy. This test collects tissue fluid from a small cut in the affected skin (or earlobes), which is then stained to detect bacteria under a microscope.

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Globally, Indonesia is ranked third after India and Brazil with the highest number of people affected by leprosy. In 2019, the Indonesian Ministry of Health recorded more than 17,000 persons who were newly diagnosed with leprosy: 11% were children and 6% had severe disabilities, indicating ongoing disease transmission and diagnostic delays.


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Ringu was diagnosed with leprosy. His skin and nerves are being examined.
One of the superficial nerves, in the vicinity of the lesion, was enlarged.

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In 2000, Indonesia officially reached the threshold of leprosy elimination, which is defined as less than 1 person with leprosy per 10,000 population. Nonetheless, pockets with high endemic disease are spread across the nation and reported numbers of new cases has stagnated throughout the years demonstrating ongoing transmission.

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This photo exhibition illustrates an invisible burden among the world’s poorest. Leprosy and its complications heavily impact an individuals’ mental and social well-being. People affected by leprosy often feel fear and shame causing depression, anxiety, and social conflicts including divorce, loss of daily income or displacement from their homes. Leprosy may also have an impact on the family, friends, and the community overall.

Doctor Gladys cleans

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Doctor Gladys cleans the wound on the sole of Toru’s foot. She had skin complaints for more than 10 years before leprosy was diagnosed through the teledermatology services. Toru started multi-drug therapy that consists of three antibiotics,
and is monitored monthly by Sumba Foundation to prevent complications.


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Talo, the father of Ringu, is also affected by leprosy. He is undergoing a nerve examination. If nerves in the face are affected,
patients may have difficulties closing their eyes which can cause blindness.

Talo walks

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Talo walks to his brother’s grave, who passed away two years ago. Based on his stories, Talo’s brother was suffering from multiple skin lesions and wounds across his body suggesting he may have had leprosy as well.

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