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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

FOCUS: Back on Their Feet

HANDA’s mobile prosthesis workshop provides a timely service in China.


In China, many older persons affected by leprosy are living with disabilities due to late detection and treatment and injuries they exacerbated by working in the fields in their younger days.

Over the years, wounds that did not receive proper treatment developed into ulcers, bone infections and cancer, resulting in amputation. The prostheses that amputees were given were heavy and unsuited to their needs. No one from the manufacturers was willing to enter the leprosy recovery villages where they lived to adjust them. Without suitable prostheses, their amputation stumps continued to develop new ulcers.

To tackle this problem, HANDA Rehabilitation and Welfare Association established a prosthesis workshop in Guangzhou province in 2002. In 2010, it established a mobile prosthesis workshop to expand its area of operations and provide a timely service for people affected by leprosy.* By the end of 2012, it had produced 936 prosthetic limbs for people in 53 leprosy villages in five provinces.

When technicians visit a village, they not only make prostheses but train beneficiaries on how to wear their new limbs as well as how to care for them. During follow-up visits, they carry out necessary adjustments and maintenance, replacing parts — such as foot plates and ankle joints — as needed.


Seen here are photos taken when the mobile workshop visited Sian, a leprosy recovery village about one hour from Guangzhou city, in September this year to make a new limb for Mr. Zhou Zaizhao.

In the back of the mobile workshop, HANDA prosthetic technician Yuan Yahua** gets to work making a plaster cast in the shape of Mr. Zhou’s leg (1). Next, the prosthetic material is heated and molded in the shape of the cast by assistant technician Wang Dewen (2). The prosthesis is now ready (3), but first Mr. Zhou’s leg stump is given a good massage to get the blood flowing (4). The artificial limb is fitted (5), but is a little tight around the knee joint, so technician Yuan makes some on-the-spot adjustments to the prosthesis (6). After further adjustments, this time to the height of the prosthesis (7), Mr. Zhou takes his first steps — and his big smile says it all. (8)


* The mobile workshop is currently being funded by The Leprosy Mission New Zealand, Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation and local donors.

** Yuan Yahua is himself a person affected by leprosy.