Medical care for Leprosy Sufferers

project partner
: Xichang Rotary Club of Hong Kong South Handa Welfare and Rehabilitation Centre


funding period:2002

summary: In 2002 Charlotte di Vita joined a group of Hong Kong Rotarians to visit leprosy sufferers in four very isolated villages in Western China. "These were some of the most harrowing and heartwrenching scenes. I had never seen anything like it. The leprosy sufferers have no hope, no medication and often their very existence is denied by the authorities. The "burnt out" cases are left with a legacy of limb deformities, ulcers and blindness. Their families are impoverished, stigmatised and out of reach of effective treatment if they contract the disease themselves."

Trade plus Aid donated £700 to provide children's clothing, school bags and stationery for the children in these communities.

After her visit, Charlotte introduced The Rotary Club of Hong Kong South to HANDA, the Chinese self-help organisation, and together they are developing a strategy to aid these impoverished communities. HANDA was set up by a Chinese doctor in 1996 to develop self-help programmes and give medical aid to leprosy (Hansen's Disease) sufferers in China. View the HANDA site here.

Now, with the co-operation of Liangshan authorities, The Rotary Club of Hong Kong South is providing seed money and fund-raising to set up a centre of excellence for the treatment of Hansen's Disease in Xichang, Liangshan's capital. The centre will be run by HANDA to help fight leprosy, to provide rehabilitation for sufferers and to train doctors and other medical personnel, so that the disease may be diagnosed earlier.

The planned facilities include:

  • facilities for eye operations as well as a mobile eye clinic for treatment in the villages. It is estimated that at least 20% of the Hansen's Disease sufferers in the area need eye operations. The gift of sight or enhanced vision will improve their well being and enhance their ability to look after themselves
  • a small factory for shoe and artificial limb manufacture, with a mobile unit. HANDA's experience shows that the provision of proper fitting shoes and the fitting of good artificial limbs are very important factors in the successful rehabilitation of Hansen Disease patients. Typically at least one third of sufferers have disabling ulcers or pressure sores. The initial plan is to produce up to 3000 pairs of shoes each year; this will provide shoes for 1000 patients. In due course, the service will be extended to all 9000 patients in the Liangshang area.
  • vocational/self-sufficiency training for young people in the communities, including crop-growing, animal husbandry, machine-maintenance, practical building maintenance and community development skills. Also training in sewing and handicrafts, so that they can produce goods that can be sold.
  • training facilities for doctors and other medical personnel
  • pharmacy and drug distribution centre. Channeling drugs through the centre to the local public health service will help eliminate the current 10-month delay between diagnosis and the drugs reaching the patient.
  • laboratory and research facilities
  • administrative and support facilities

For more information on this project and how to contribute to their fund-raising visit

"500,000 cases of leprosy were registered in China between 1950 and 2002. Most of these sufferers have been cured but approximately 6000 active cases remain and about 2000 new cases are detected and registered every year. Many more cases are not registered, partly though ignorance but also because of the stigma associated with the disease."
- Dr Michael Chen, HANDA

"Although many leprosy sufferers were cured in the last 50 years, many of them still suffer serious pain and difficulties because of their deformities and the stigma. This has become the main problem in our leprosy work these days."
- Dr Michael Chen, HANDA

"In Liangshan province there are some 10,000 registered leprosy sufferers."
- Hong Kong South Rotary Club report on the Leprosy Project