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Leprosy colony in Tamil Nadu-India

India is home to about 75% of the world leprosy patients. Control and elimination of the disease still faces many challenges, Leprosy continues to be stigmatized in a society with a deeply ingrained, though legally abolished, caste. The lepers of India are still `untouchable `.

In 2005 India celebrated the elimination of leprosy. While globally in 2008, 250.000 new cases of leprosy were recorded, India accounted for 137.000 of those cases. According to WHO`s latest estimate, around 35% or 48.000 of new leprosy cases in India, are women. India also recorded the highest number of children newly detected with leprosy, 13.610. Ignorance of the problem is maybe one of the main reasons why there are still more than 700 leper colonies in India.

In Salem, South India, patients and their families live in ghetto like colonies, created by the Government in 1970`s to get leprosy beggars from the street as well as to help them getting a place to live. Often educated by Christian missionaries, the residents suffer from all the social problems that affect the marginalized around the world. For the youth growing up in the colonies, isolation cuts deeply. The social stigma is depriving them for having a normal childhood and youth, they remain trapped in an ostracized welfare community because of the dreaded disease`s assault on their parents.

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All photograph right reserved by Naymuzzaman Prince.