- Leprosy patients in India have regained the use of previously paralyzed eyelids, fingers, wrists, and ankles through a project funded in part by a US$21,000 Matching Grant from The Rotary Foundation.
- The Rotary clubs of the Hague-Metropolitan, The Netherlands, and Lucknow, India, partnered to provide reconstructive surgery to 106 leprosy patients in Uttar Pradesh, India.
- One of the beneficiaries was 25-year-old Phool Kumari, who received physical therapy as well as surgery.
- Kumari had been losing the ability to lift her left foot or move her toes, which affected her ability to walk normally. Even though she had received drug treatment to cure the leprosy, she was still stigmatized by villagers. The surgery and therapy improved her situation considerably.
- Dispelling myths about leprosy, such as how the disease spreads, was another goal of the project. According to the World Health Organization, leprosy is not highly contagious.
- The 137,000 new cases in India last year — more than half of the total global cases in 2007 — were transmitted through close and frequent contact.
- Despite the project’s benefits, Rotarians faced challenges finding patients.
- They worked with a state government health agency to contact leprosy patients and bring them in for surgical screenings hosted by local Rotarians.
- Spreading the word “Most of the leprosy-affected persons live in isolation,” says Indian-born Dev Chadha, a member of the Dutch club and coordinator for Netherlands Leprosy Relief for Uttar Pradesh. “Convincing them to undergo surgery was a difficult task.” “Initially, the turnout at the camps was low,” says Chadha. “But word spread about the surgery from patients whose deformed limbs had become functional.”