Before the founding of the People’s Republic, people with leprosy were killed to prevent them from spreading the disease to others. In the 1950s, this disease could be cured and in the 1980s, medicines were handed out to leprosy patients for free. Even though the disease can be cured, the lasting effects, and discrimination, still stay with the patients. Leprosy communities are looked on as demons and are often not accepted by outsiders. There are about 10,000 people who have recovered from leprosy and their relatives living in Yunnan. Around 70% of Chinese patients live in Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Guangdong and Guangxi.
These photos record a group of volunteer doctors helping the recovered leprosy patients in Jiudaoyakou village in Yunnan and illustrate their lives. This village of 64, founded in 1964, is home to recovered leprosy patients who fled nine leprosy rehab centers.
In this village, only nine kids have a chance to go to school. The remaining 24 are too poor for any education. The land around the village all belongs to other villages. What belongs to them is a tiny plot on the hill between rocks. They can plant only corn. Generally, after the Spring Festival, villagers run out of food and they have to borrow some from other villages and return them in August after harvesting the corn. They have no electricity and live in the dark at night. The nearest market is 40 kilometers away. When volunteers visited them, they had to pull their cars over seven kilometers away from the village and then walk in.
The younger generation of the villagers are discriminated against by outsiders. They don’t even dare to step out of the village. People in other villages call them evil, throw rocks at them, and harass them back to their village. For a long time, no one has been willing to talk to them or do business with them.
In some richer places in Yunnan, some recovered leprosy patients can get 100 Yuan ($12) per month from the local government. But most others can get only several pounds of free rice, or even nothing. Jiudaoyakou village was visited by a foreigner named Steve in October. This village is a particular case because their original hometown refuses to accept them back after recovery and refuses to recognize them in the census.
The villagers prepared their best meals for the volunteer doctors. The food tastes bad to those who live in cities, but volunteers don’t want to hurt their feeling and eat it all.
The villagers don’t have identification cards. Their village has no postal address. They are a homeless community. Besides other people’s discrimination, many leprosy patients themselves don’t believe they can be cured. The volunteers tell them that they are recovered and healthy now; their kids are healthy too.
– Original Chinese post here via 163.net.