Subject: Leprosy fighters return

Also: Big cheque for Leukemia victim

Diamond Valley Leader (Australia)

January 21, 2004 Wednesday

Leprosy fighters return By Sasha Jamieson

MELBOURNE'S Leprosy Mission is about to resume work with sufferers in East Timor.

The organisation will re-establish prevention, medical and advocacy programs, which were stopped after the eruption of violence in 1999.

Overseas projects manager Glenda Cresswick said she was delighted to announce the introduction of aid to leprosy sufferers in Oecussi, a region of East Timor.

Nurse and staff member Elsie Italia was in the country initiating the program, Mrs Cresswick said.

"It's exciting to think that we can go back and Elsie is a very qualified and trained person," she said.

Mrs Cresswick, who has overseen leprosy aid for the past seven years, said she was aware of the need for intervention.

"It's a horrible disease because it does damage and it's irreversible," she said.

An infectious disease attacking the nerve system, if left untreated leprosy could cause a loss of feeling and paralysis, triggering ulceration, damage through unfelt injury and, eventually, deformity.

As the organisation began work in East Timor, Mrs Cresswick said the challenge was to locate the people who had begun their treatment, but had fled the violence during the vote for independence in 1999.

"If we find leprosy early before the nerve damage occurs, we give them a blister pack of drugs and they take that every day for six months," Mrs Cresswick said.

But if the disease had struck the nerves, people required treatment for 12 to 18 months, she said.

"Although you can't reverse the nerve damage, you can stop it," Mrs Cresswick said.

Together with the physical disability, sufferers struggled with the stigma attached to the disease, she said.

Much of the aid work involved rehabilitation into the work force, activities and advocacy to get their families to accept them, Mrs Cresswick said.

The organisation also had surgeons working in East Timor hospitals helping with reconstructive surgery, she said.

xxx

Mosman & Lower North Shore Daily (Australia)

January 22, 2004 Thursday

Big cheque

A MOSMAN couple donated more than $5500 to a six-year-old East Timorese girl with leukemia, making the $11,000 target a reality.

The couple wish to remain anonymous.

The money was transferred to a trust account for Sofia, the little girl, just before Christmas.

Mayor Genia McCaffery said many schools and businesses helped raise the money.

"They had mufti days and a sausage sizzle that raised more than $2500. Marist Brothers, Shore, St Aloysius, Wenona, Monte and several students from Williams Business College worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this fundraising drive," the mayor said.

The treatment for Sofia's acute lymphoblastic leukemia will be completed late this year.


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