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Children are less likely to be diagnosed in time, and consequently, more likely to develop a disability due to leprosy.

Janakan also says that cases have sprung up among internally displaced populations in places like Puttalam in northwestern Sri Lanka.

Hendala, Sri Lanka - Edward de Alwis was born in 1928, the youngest of nine siblings. He was taken from his family and quarantined at the Hendala Leprosy Hospital."There were five checkpoints, and 12 policemen who stood guard all the time. De Alwis was one of 20 children among 900 adult patients.

A social awareness marketing campaign included a range of initiatives.

A successful television drama was used to raise awareness on air - as part of the plot, a man with leprosy was cured and found love.

He was here when the country's ethnic conflict began, and when it ended, nearly 30 years later.

De Alwis was also here when heard that the last member of his immediate family died. Such is the stigma of his disease that his nieces and nephews were never told of his existence.

De Alwis is now 88 years old and he has spent more than seven decades in the hospital. Amazingly neither de Alwis, nor any of the 29 patients who still live in Hendala, have leprosy.

They are long since cured, but their disabilities are irreversible and some require care for other conditions, such as diabetes.

But how, in less than a century, did this place go from having hundreds of patients to having fewer than 30?

Also known as Hansen's disease, leprosy is a chronic, progressive infection caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium leprae. Most common in the warm humidity of the tropics, leprosy is a thief. The first to go is an awareness of temperature, followed by the ability to sense light touch, pain and deep pressure.

When de Alwis was first taken to Hendala, this was the treatment he received.

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