A completely new kind of leprosy work was intended to be initiated.

The project had to

  • to be well structured and clear
  • to be clearly defined regarding single areas
  • to provide a local medical contact person

These were my ideas when I arrived in The Hague in 1987 on the occasion of the 13th International Leprosy Congress, where more than 3,000 leprologists from all over the world exchanged their experience of leprosy work. I could build up a close contact with the German Leprosy and TB Relief Association. The president of DAHW at that time, Mr. Kober, offered me several interesting possibilities of collaboration. My ideas of a new project became more precise. The Madras Project was chosen after consultation of the Parish St. Vincentius in Dinslaken.

Madras is the capital of Tamil Nadu. It is part of the endemic areas of Leprosy in India. These are areas where the disease occurs from generation to generation.

Therefore, the Indian Government intended to carry out their own programme regarding the fight against leprosy in the Southern part. Unfortunately, the declaration of intent was left as it was.

In the year 1987, the Northern Madras Programme was expanded to the south of the city. In accordance with the DAHW, Dinslaken took over the fight against Leprosy in Southern Madras.  

Dr.  Lobo, an Indian doctor was in charge of executing the project. Hence, we had a contact person on-site who was a highly qualified leprologist at the same time. The aim of the project was the elimination of leprosy in an area of about 18 square kilometres with 330,000 inhabitants. One of Dr. Lobo’s letters says, “I would like to express my gratitude on behalf of all leprosy patients for your generous help. Please pass on my thanks to all those who have contributed to our leprosy work. In India, we are always overwhelmed by the generosity and the sympathy expressed by the people in Germany towards leprosy people. May God bless you!"

Leprosy out-clinic

Since I was determined to learn more about leprosy work, I decided to fly to Madras. I was accompanied by my son, who at that time was a student of medicine, and not only did we receive information about leprosy work, but I could even carry out examinations of leprosy people in the slums of Madras. The patients were waiting for us in a special room which had been been put at their disposal twice a month by the government. Although it was a ramshackle hut, it still was sufficient to examine leprosy patients, to bandage up the wounds and check the supply of medicine. I examined the patients right underneath a big portrait of Mahatma Gandhi (a picture you found in every room at that time) Stacked file-cards, a table and several chairs were the only equipment. For me, it was not only an interesting but also an enjoyable experience to meet leprosy patients. The even offered us some tea and also invited us to their homes.

Dr. Lobo also gave us the possibility to take part in the some other way of fighting leprosy, namely awareness training. This training is not only important for leprosy patients, e.g. how to cope with their illness in everyday-life, how to take their medicine systematically and thoroughly. Their family members should also learn how to overcome the fear of leprosy. In this context, Dr. Lobo organizes a leprosy march once a year to make the public become aware of the complex of problems. We took part in a leprosy march in Madras at 40 ° C, together with medical doctors, nurses and students. We walked through the streets carrying our banners on which the message “Leprosy is curable” and similar slogans were written. Indeed, we succeeded in getting the attention of the passers-by. Police took care of an orderly course of our march. After two hours – and totally exhausted - we arrived at a public park where there was a speaker’s desk adorned with flowers. Dr. Lobo was speaking to hundreds of listeners explaining that leprosy was not a divine punishment (as was widely assumed) but a curable infectious disease. It was an exciting, exhausting and at the same time a very successful day!

Leprosy march

The project South Madras was supported and financed by citizens of Dnslaken for 5 years. The result was indeed very impressive: 2,581 leprosy people were detected during that period and 2,365 were considered as cured patients after their treatment.

On the occasion of the 14th International Leprosy Congress in Orlando in 1993, Mr. Kober, who was the President of DAHW at that time, asked me if I could take over a leprosy project in the countries of the former USSR.