India News

Leading Indian leprologist SK Noordeen no more; WHO mourns loss

New Delhi, August 28

The World Health Organisation on Saturday mourned the loss of legendary Indian leprologist Dr Shaik Khader Noordeen who led the global fight against leprosy during its most critical years and oversaw the rollout of multi drug therapy, the mainstay of leprosy treatment to date. SK Noordeen was 88.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus led the condolences for the pioneer in leprosy research and said, “Saddened by the loss of Dr SK Noordeen, a key contributor to WHO leprosy elimination strategy. He coordinated WHO’s leprosy research from 1979-1984, leading to multidrug therapy. His passion and dedication were crucial in the fight against the disease.”

Hailing from Chennai, Dr Noordeen was the director of the WHO’s Action Programme for the Elimination of Leprosy from 1994 to 1998 – during the crucial years that saw the global roll-out and implementation of multidrug therapy (MDT) which remains, to this day, the main tool for the treatment and elimination of the disease.

Notably, Noordeen strongly supported global efforts to reduce stigma and social exclusion associated with leprosy, by disseminating information on the effectiveness of treatment, and by making it available for free to all those in need through large-scale donations made to WHO.


Prior to that and in 1991, SK Noordeen had played a crucial role in the adoption of World Health Assembly Resolution 44.9 which reaffirmed WHO’s commitment “to attain the global elimination of leprosy as a public health problem by the year 2000”.

After his retirement, Dr Noordeen contributed in many ways to the global fight against leprosy.

He led the International Leprosy Association, was a Founding Trustee and Chair of the Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation and a Member of the Technical Resource Group of India’s National Leprosy Eradication Programme.

Before joining WHO, Dr Noordeen had led the Central Leprosy Training and Research Institute in his native state of Tamil Nadu.

In recognition of his contribution and work, Government of India had honoured him with the prestigious Padma Shri Award.

Dr Noordeen was passionate about leprosy and contributed to transform a disease of neglected people into a solvable public health problem.

“Dr SK Noordeen was one of the pioneers of leprosy research in India and globally. His passing is a big loss for global health community, but his legacy will live on,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said.