EGYPT: Leprosy Colony Abu Zaabel

EGYPT, QALYOUBIYA: About 750 patients are still living in Abu Zaabal, Egypt's biggest leper colony, 40km north of Cairo. Another 3,000-4,000 cured lepers are living in the adjoining Abdel Moneim Riad village. Abu Zaabal was built in 1933 encompassing a hospital and agricultural land in order to be self-sustainable. Lepers and ex-lepers who are healthy enough to work are helping with easy physical tasks. Until the 1930s, the illness was seen as uncurable and highly infectious. Left untreated, leprosy can be progressive, causing permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Lepers were brought in by police and were not allowed to leave for isolation was seen as the only treatment. It was a big open air prison. Circumstances back then were horrible with mice chewing away on lepers’ wounds while sleeping.

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