There still exists enormous fear and ignorance of leprosy, with many still clinging to the age-old belief that leprosy is an incurable, highly-contagious hereditary disease; or even that it no longer exists.
Nothing could be further from the truth. What is true is that leprosy is caused by a mildly infectious bacterium to which 95% of people have a natural immunity – and it is totally curable.
Yet it remains a scourge in many parts of the world, including China, where sufferers live out their lives without treatment, in isolation, ostracised by society. In Liangshan alone, a remote and mountainous area of Sichuan with little or no infrastructure, there are some 120 new cases of leprosy reported every year in the region’s 19 Leprosy Rehabilitation Villages, and around 1000 nationwide.
In the 9 villages where The Leprosy Project operates – there are no new cases.
The Leprosy Project’s unique approach is to run a comprehensive set of programs (see above) developed in full consultation with the village communities. This integrated approach addresses not only the medical and health issues of the sufferers themselves, but the essential community issues of nutrition, education, infrastructure and self-sustaining economic activity.
When the project began, these villages were receiving almost no healthcare. 75% of the people suffering from leprosy or its after-effects had gross disabilities. By educating the local doctors and villagers about early detection, training local healthcare workers and monthly visits by our medical staff based in Xichang we have achieved great results:
Massive reduction in ulcer cases
40% reduction in the number of people with ulcers between 2009 and 2012
Prevention of any new cases of leprosy in all of the villages in which we operate
Provision of over 1,000 pairs of protective shoes each year for those with foot disabilities
Supply of prosthetics to leprosy patients who are amputees
Arrangement of 25-30 cataract and lagothphalmos operations each year
Provision of bursaries for more than 40 children from Project villages to attend school elsewhere