Former lepers' village unwelcome at new community

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A luxury resort project in the central region's economic capital of Da Nang is relocating an isolated community of former lepers into the city, where their new neighbors are being anything but welcoming.

Da Nang government plans to bring the community, named Van Village, into Hoa Hiep Nam Ward of Lien Chieu District, news website VnExpress reported Thursday.

Van village was established in 1968 at the foot of Hai Van Pass, some 10 kilometers from the nearest road, with 40 leprosy patients from Hue, Da Nang and nearby Quang Nam Province.

The village now has more than 325 people living in 134 families. Later generations of the village are all healthy.

After a resort project worth US$2 billion was approved in May this year, the city government started to build a group of houses for Van village residents. The new houses are expected to be finished in October.

The villagers have been brought to see their new area and many have expressed eagerness to move, the report said. They look forward to no longer being isolated, and to having better homes than they do at the village, the residents said.

But people in Hoa Hiep Nam ward falsely believe that leprosy is highly contagious and incurable, and thus do not want to be near the villagers.

Nguyen Dinh Hoa, a man from the ward, said he agreed with the plan to move the village closer into the city but said that the lepers should still be isolated some what.

Van village has a long history of leprosy, and the condition might spread around the ward, Hoa said.

He also said that he's afraid people from Van village "would find it hard to get along with the new community."

His neighbor Nguyen Long Thanh said "we wish the city government would consider making the plan more reasonable."

Local officials met people from the ward on Monday to discuss the issue.

Le Duy Du, Chairman of the ward, said that doctors and medical officials were invited to the meeting to guarantee that people from the current Van village are all healthy and the ward will not be exposed to the risk of leprosy.

But Du also said that people cannot be convinced in one day.

Thus local officials will try to persuade them further by educating them about the disease, he said.

Du said "The plan is to share with local people their concerns"¦ I also believe that they will understand more about Van villagers after they move in and all will get along well with each other."

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