China: Taking care of lepers

About 320,000 people in continental China suffer from leprosy, the majority concentrated in the southern and south-western Provinces. Lepers and their families are rejected by the community and usually obliged to live in villages isolated from the rest of society. There are over a hundred leprosariums in the regions of Jiangxi and Sichuan, but with limited space and facilities they help only a fraction of the some 40,000 who are sick with Hansen?s disease. In response to a request by a Chinese doctor, and with the approval of the authorities, Luis Gutheinz SJ, the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Family, and the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Conception made visits to China between 1997 and 1999 to assess the situation, and since May 2000 the Holy Family Sisters have been working in the leprosariums of Sichuan and of Jiangxi. Besides assisting the sick, Fr Gutheinz sees the need for public education to overcome the discrimination and isolation that the lepers and their families suffer. The new China Leprosy Service in Taiwan co-ordinates the help people offer and raises public awareness about the real situation of leprosy-friends especially in China. [HL10406]