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."
plus Aid donated £700 to provide children's clothing,
school bags and stationery for the children in these communities.
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.
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.
planned facilities include:
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
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.
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.
facilities for doctors and other medical personnel
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.
and research facilities
and support facilities
more information on this project and how to contribute to
their fund-raising visit www.rotary.org.hk/hongkong-south/index.html
"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."
"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."
"In Liangshan province there are some 10,000 registered