Leprosy is a disease caused by bacteria that affects the skin and nerves. It can be cured with the right medication and treatment, but, if left untreated, leprosy can lead to deformities of the hands and feet, blindness, and kidney failure. In India, despite significant progress made by the National Leprosy Eradication Program (NLEP), leprosy continues to be a public health challenge and the country accounts for almost 60% of the world’s leprosy cases annually. Due to the stigma attached to the disease, leprosy patients are usually shunned and isolated. They face challenges in every area of life, including health, education, relationships and economic security.
The high prevalence of leprosy in India inspired the HOPE foundation to build the Village of HOPE in 1993 for leprosy patients and their families. The government provided 22.5 acres of land on the outskirts of Delhi, within the Tahirpur Leprosy Colony under the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD). Over the next decade, HOPE foundation built nearly 800 houses on the land, and approximately 6,000 people now live there in a thriving village community.
Leprosy wounds need to have frequent dressing changes to facilitate healing, and so HOPE foundation built a Bandaging Unit, which provides free medication, bandaging, and wound-care to leprosy patients.
The Bandaging Unit is conveniently situated in the village, so leprosy patients do not have to travel far for treatment. The unit employs 4 members of staff; 3 for dressing wounds and another for data entry. Although the majority of people in the village are healed, approximately 235 leprosy patients still need wound-care and visit the Bandaging Unit regularly. On average, 95-100 patients visit the unit every day and 22,800 patient-visits were recorded in 2020.
HOPE foundation also built a Vocational Training Centre to provide skills training to youth and women who live in the village. Many of the youth in the village are leprosy-free, and the Vocational Training Centre helps them to find meaningful employment which in turn helps them to support their families.
HOPE worldwide UK not only raises funds for the Village of HOPE each year, but also supports the Bandaging Unit through volunteer visits, including regular visits by qualified podiatrists from the UK. In October 2020, the bandaging team started to use a healthcare software tool, Cliniko, to record progress in patients’ wounds over time. Cliniko allows photographs of patients’ wounds to be uploaded, enabling practitioners in the UK to view the images online and liaise with patients about their progress.
1 World Health Organization (2017) Integrating Neglected Tropical Diseases into Global Health and Development: Fourth WHO Report on Neglected Tropical Disease, Geneva.