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A ‘Good Samaritan’ to the Aid of Lepes

Guangzhou (China): A 60-year-old woman has brought about a revolution in the lives of lepers in China.//

Fu Pochu, an energetic and determined retiree from Hong Kong, decided one day to live in a leper colony and offer free care to people there. That momentous decision has made a huge difference to hundreds of lepers in south China.

Fu is the only nurse at the Tanshan Leper Rehabilitation Village in Gaoming district. She has devoted three years of her life to improving medical care and helping patients cured of the disease to live a more normal life.

In the past, people diagnosed with the terrible disease were banished from their villages and forced to live in isolation.

Fu, who is not married, never uses cosmetics or wears jewellery. She shuns air conditioners and instead uses two electric fans during summer.

Thanks to Fu, ordinary people's fears about the rehabilitated village are melting away. People from all walks of life are showing greater understanding of the lepers and aid is pouring in.

Leprosy has officially been eradicated in China.

Once thought to be incurable, leprosy can be easily cured with a 6-12-month multi-therapy antibiotic treatment introduced in 1982. However, pockets of infection still remain in impoverished parts of Sichuan, Yunnan, Guizhou and Tibet in the west.

The disease used to be so feared in China that victims were burnt or buried alive. From the 1950s, sufferers were exiled to far-flung places so they would have no contact with the public.

China stopped this in the 1980s but hundreds of leper colonies remain.

They are home to about 200,000 recovered lepers and their descendants, who have little or no hope of ever rejoining society because of the stigma attached to the disease.

No longer considered infectious, the recovered lepers still bear the scars of the disease that destroys the skin, peripheral nerv
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