Donnie, 85 years old woman lives in the Nanthar Myaing village for twenty-four years. Her elder son also suffers from Leprosy. Living alone, she devotes herself in serving “The Church on the Rock” in the village.
Dogs are the friends of the lonely people of the Nanthar Myaing village. They are the everyday guards and guests. Their death is also usual and unceremonious.
Slowness and the sadness describe the character of the Nanthar Myaingvillage. Exhausted afternoon is the usual scene of her (the village).
Nanthar Myaing village, in Madaya Township is known as the resettlement village for the people who are affected by leprosy. Barrenness and the people who are stigmatized by others build a strange nature of the village.The village has a population of 1,400, of whom 360 persons are affected by leprosy; others are their following generation.
Photograph of her own, which Donnie (85 years old woman) loves to see every time she feels depressed.
Sixteen years old Su Poing Chid looks after her grandmother Daw Khin Than a 65 years old woman lives in the Nanthar Myaing village for twenty-four years.
Daw Than Ji lost everything for Leprosy, her parents, siblings, friends. Her parents felt she would spoil others. She lives in the village for twenty years. “Gongzo” the old dog is her only companion now.
Lalaa Lwin met her husband while she drives motorbike to earn her living. She was divorce and driving from ruby land to coal mine. Both of them has same disease, that what matched to start a new life.
“I was twelve and beautiful when I first admitted to the Mandalay Hospital. I could not hold my tears when my grandfather walked past the passage leaving me behind. Yet I did not want to go back home, I know I have leprosy,” said Daw Khin Than a 65 years old woman lives in the Nanthar Myaing village for twenty-four years.
Nanthar Myaing village, in Madaya Township is known as the resettlement village for the people who are affected by leprosy. “We had to sell our own land to move here. This land is infertile, so they gave it to us” she added. Barrenness and the people who are stigmatized by others build a strange nature of the village. The village has a population of 1,400, of whom 360 persons are affected by leprosy; others are their following generation. Even the disease-free children of leprosy patients are shunned and are not allowed to move from the village. Villagers generate income by begging, woodcutting, charcoal making, agriculture and animal husbandry. “Our children face taunts and slights when they go to school, but we beg to earn so that they can get an education and get jobs. Their future should not be ruined,” told U Ye Zaw another dweller of the village.
The origin and spread of leprosy in Myanmar are not known exactly. However, some researchers think, it is possible that it may have been brought in at times of invasion by the Chinese and by visiting trade merchants from India. There were 11,000 cases of leprosy in Myanmar according to the 1931 census. In 1951 a WHO Consultant estimated the prevalence of leprosy throughout the country to be about 5 cases per 1,000 inhabitants (Internet).
The stigma of leprosy swamps Myanmar, even though the country has made great strides against the disease, which is neither highly contagious nor fatal. Medical experts say the enormous fear surrounding leprosy is hindering efforts to finally eliminate it. People continue to hide their diagnoses from families and loved ones out of fear they will be hated. Health workers are trying to spread that; leprosy is not highly contagious and not hereditary. But the deformities that are the hallmark of leprosy contribute to the fear surrounding the disease, a chronic bacterial infection that often lies dormant for years before attacking the body’s nerves and slowly causing numbness.
Hands and feet eventually claw inward and serious injuries often go unnoticed because no pain is felt. Often fingers and toes are lost due to injuries and sores. Scientists believe it is spread through droplets from coughing or sneezing during prolonged contact with someone infected, but they are still not completely sure.
“I lost everything, my parents, siblings, friends. My parents always felt I would spoil others. I wish I could see them again,” said Daw Than Ji who lives there for twenty years.
Villagers of Nanthar Myaing left all their past and relatives far behind and start a new life from here. When they first arrived in the place, there was nothing but dust and rocks; government gave them some money to build the houses, after that they had to struggle to make their living. “Government pays a monthly allowance of 150 kyats (for patients of 15 years and over)/450 kyats (for patients over 50 years)/600 kyats (for patients over 60 years), which is nothing but a joke. The money does not even pay our bandages, said U Ye Zaw, resident of the village and also a social worker. “ To the world outside, we are nothing but some ugly monkeys and here (in the village) we are all anonymous yet we are all fellow sufferers. In this small world of us, we all are heroes’, he added.
Donnie, 85 years old woman who serves the church said “I know I am a patient and it’s not possible to change people’s attitude, so I accept it and devote my life to Jesus Christ”. Lalaa Lwin, Minnie, U Kyaw Nyin, Daw Than Ji, Daw Khin Than accept their life as it is and living it to its fullest. Their belief turned the infertile depressed land into productive one. It is the tale from that barren land and the people, relationship between the land and them; their adaptation towards the disability of feeling pain, their love and faith for the new generation to bring changes.