Rome (Fides Service) - According to updates published by AIFO (Associazione Italiana Amici Raoul Foillerau), Association of the Friends of Raoul Foillerau, in recent years control of leprosy in endemic countries has obtained excellent results thanks to the introduction of specific poly-chemi-therapy PCT, with a considerable drop in number of cases registered, although the annual number of new cases is stable. In endemic countries diagnosis is still delayed and very often the affected person comes to the health services with irreversible disabilities.
The problem leprosy cannot be tackled in an isolated manner it must be part of an integrated health programme for basic health services. Moreover, to fight leprosy it is necessary to promote early diagnosis, proper clinical treatment to prevent disability, physical rehabilitation for patients with a disability, health education and information for the public in general, professional training and social economic rehabilitation of leprosy patients and their families.
An example of this new integrated approach is the AIFO intervention in mainland China, in the province of Yunnan. With an official agreement since 1989 AIFO has worked with the Yunnan authorities to support integrated health activities to control leprosy. Since 2002, in view of serious health situation in villages (former leper colonies) in the area, AIFO began to work with the Handa Rehabilitation & Welfare Association based in Guangzhou.
In the province of Yunnan, short for Yunlingnan or “south of mount Yunling”, because of prejudice people with leprosy still live in villages built in remote mountainous areas. Every family in these villages has at least one member with leprosy. There are at least 300 villages like this build mainly in the 1950s and 1960s with a total population of about 10,000. Still today 70% of the villagers need surgical rehabilitation and the communities live a life of hardship due to difficult access to the villages, poor housing and lack of running water, electricity and schools.
The objectives of AIFO in this province are development of basic health care to support the Integrated Plan for Control of Leprosy run by the provincial authorities and activity of social economic rehabilitation for communities in isolated villages where in the past people with leprosy were segregated (former leper colonies). (AP) (15/3/2005 Agenzia Fides; Righe:38; Parole:477)