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Bangladesh

CHURCH-RUN PROJECT FIGHTS LEPROSY, TUBERCULOSIS

Updated: November 13, 1996 05:00 PM GMT
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A Catholic Church-run service for Hansenites in the Jalchatra forest area north of Dhaka has grown from a small clinic into a multi-district leprosy and tuberculosis control project.

The Jalchatra Leprosy Hospital was established by American missioners in 1952, when what is now Bangladesh was East Pakistan. Isolated from local people, the facility comprised only a few worn-out concrete buildings.

In 1972, after Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan, the missioners handed the hospital over to the Damien Foundation, a Belgian aid organization which built up the hospital´s infrastructure.

The hospital dealt only with Hansenites (leprosy patients) until 1993, when tuberculosis cases were first admitted and the hospital was renamed the Jalchatra Leprosy and Tuberculosis Hospital.

The hospital, with a staff of more than 80, including nine local and two foreign doctors, now runs three tuberculosis and leprosy control projects in the greater Rajshahi district.

In Mymensing district, it has 56 subdistrict offices, each of which is affiliated with the local government health clinic and staffed by a tuberculosis and leprosy control assistant.

The branch offices have access to publicity regarding leprosy and tuberculosis provided by various non-governmental organizations, who also refer patients to the staff. Critical cases are referred by the branch offices to the Jalchatra hospital.

There, leprosy patients who have not become disabled by the disease are given six months of treatment, and more serious cases are treated for two years. The hospital is equipped for both physiotherapy and surgery.

Since most of the patients are poor, they are treated free of charge. The 50-100 taka (US$1.07-2.15) they pay to cover the cost of transporting them is refunded at the time of discharge.

In 1995 the hospital treated 842 tuberculosis patients and 237 with leprosy. This year it aims to treat 2,300 tuberculosis cases and 400 Hansenites.

END

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