The goal of the Leprosy Project is to see the villages they serve free from leprosy and fully accepted into society.
The Leprosy Project has been operating in Liangshan since 2004 in conjunction with The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention of the Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture. They currently serve 9 villages but due to the success of their Project they have been requested by the government to take on 7 more.
Surprisingly, perhaps, in this information age, 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 bacteria 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, ostracized 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.
Without the proper treatment that The Project provides, leprosy causes serious and irreversible disabilities – cataracts, blindness, claw hands, collapsed noses, and even loss of limbs. These disabilities and the social stigma associated with leprosy remain ling after the disease itself has been brought under control.
The Leprosy Project’s unique approach is to run a comprehensive set of programs 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.
- Prevention of Disease program Continuous medical treatment and training
- Prosthetics / Protection program Provision of protective shoes and prosthetics
- Nutrition / Hygiene program Ensuring all benefit from a well-balanced diet
- Environment / Infrastructure program Installing new water and irrigation systems etc.
- Economic Improvement Program Developing pig-farming, bee-keeping, and other income enhancing activities
- Children’s Education program Providing bursaries for children’s schooling
- Public Awareness program Reaching out through regular social events
When the Project began, these villages were receiving almost no healthcare. Seventy-five percent 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
- 90% success rate in the cure of long term ulcers and sores
- Prevention of any new cases of leprosy in all the villages in which The Project operates
- Provision of over 1,000 pairs of protective shoes each year for those with foot disabilities
- Supply of prosthetics to leprosy patients who are amputed
- Arrangement of 25-30 cataract and lagothphalmos operations each year
- Provision of bursaries for school children from Project villages to attend school
- Installation of water tanks and pipes to provide water for irrigation and to households in Butuo, the most remote of the villages they serve