An education official from Sichuan Province has been commended by Chinese leaders for improving the welfare and education of people living in a remote leprosy recovery village in the province, Xinhua reported last month.
According to the news agency, Chinese President Hu Jintao called on government and Communist Party officials to learn from Lin Qiang's example, with Vice-President Zeng Qinghong saying that officials "should put the interests of the common people first, just like Lin has done."
The 53-year-old Lin first came upon Abuluoha village, one of several hundred in China dating back to the days when patients with the disease were sent to isolated recovery villages, in 2003. Although the residents had already been cured, many had been left disabled and were cut off from the outside world because of the fear surrounding the disease.
Stunned by the destitution and illiteracy he found, Lin has since made 10 trips to the village, helping residents to build a school, pave roads and gain access to electricity.
"I bumped into this village, I cried and couldn't just go away," he was quoted as saying.
Diseases such as leprosy for which powerful and inexpensive control tools are currently available and for which well-developed implementation strategies exist. (Source: WHO Global Plan to Combat Neglected Tropical Diseases)
A 12-page booklet outlining some of the key medical and social issues in leprosy today has been prepared by The Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation. Leprosy in the 21st Century: Medical and Social Challenges was distributed at the Sixth Session of the Human Rights Council taking place in Geneva last month.
GLOBAL PLAN ON NTDs
The WHO has announced a Global Plan to Eliminate Neglected Tropical Diseases 2008-2015. The plan provides measures for the prevention, early detection, diagnosis, treatment, control, elimination and eradication of NTDs and zoonoses that disproportionately affect poor and marginalized populations. Intensified efforts by WHO will initially focus on 14 diseases, among them leprosy.