RTL_logo_Colour 250 x 250Rufiji Leprosy Trust is a charitable trust supporting the Kindwitwi Leprosy Care Centre in the Rufiji area of Tanzania.

The care centre assists in:

~ finding and treating people living with leprosy in the Rufiji area
~ supporting people all people affected by leprosy throughout the Rufiji area
~ promoting self-sufficiency of people living with leprosy and their families.

As leprosy is curable, many think the disease is no longer a problem, however it is listed as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) by the World Health Organisation, which means it is especially common in some of the world’s poorest areas.


The Trust prides itself on being totally managed by volunteer Trustees; the only paid employees are those who carry out the Trust’s work in Tanzania.

Please read on to find out more about our work, to make a donation or to catch up on the latest news.


Latest News

Strange treatments for leprosy throughout the ages

Leprosy is one of the oldest diseases in the world. The ancient Egyptians wrote about a disease similar to leprosy and it is referred to in the bible.

It has been a long-held belief of many cultures across the world as being a punishment from God. For instance, in India, the Hindus considered any deformities resulting from leprosy were divine punishment.

Other cultures believed leprosy was a result of witchcraft, and in some parts of Zambia, hippo meat is rarely eaten due to a local belief that consuming hippo can cause leprosy.

Today we know leprosy is caused by a slow-growing type of bacteria called Mycobacterium leprae (M. leprae) and it can be cured by using multidrug therapy (MDT) such as dapsone and rifampicin.

However, in the past, snake venom, bee stings, and even sacrifices were considered cures for leprosy.

Here are some other obscure proposed cures and treatments:

  • Blood

For several centuries drinking or bathing in blood was considered to be a treatment. The Old Testament describes pouring the blood of a sacrificed bird on an affected individual. Later the Swiss physician, alchemist, and astrologer Paracelsus (1493 - 1541) recommended the use of lamb's blood.

The belief of blood being a cure for leprosy continued well into the late 1700s, when the use of dog blood was mentioned as a treatment for leprosy in the publication De Secretis Naturae.

Other old journals have described using leeches to bleed of people living with leprosy.

  • Gold

Medieval alchemists would sometimes give individuals a concoction containing gold; the belief was gold symbolised richness and purity, and would therefore cleanse the individual of the disease.

  • Earth bathing

The rather bizarre practice of stripping naked and being buried in fertile soil up to the neck as being a cure for leprosy was dreamed up by James Graham (1745-94), a Scottish-born quack physician. He believed ‘earth bathing’ opened the pores and leached toxins from the body, and he considered it particularly effective for curing leprosy. (He believed it was a ‘cure-all’, and he also recommended earth bathing for treating cancer, insanity venereal disease, gout, scurvy, and rheumatism.)

  • Castration

The book The World of the Castrati, by Patrick Barbier, highlights in the middle Ages, castration was believed to cure or prevent leprosy, hernia, epilepsy, gout and various inflammatory conditions!

Thankfully today we know better.

If diagnosed and treated early, people will not develop the disabilities experienced in days gone by, and can continue to live normal lives and be a part of the community.

Even if a person presents with disabilities as a result advanced stages of the disease, they can still be treated and supported and continue to be a part of the community.

The biggest challenge today overcoming the stigma associated with leprosy and educating people leprosy is curable.

Kindwitwi is proof stigma can be overcome; once a place of misery and despair, and shunned by neighbouring villages, it is now a thriving community.

People living with leprosy are cared for and are a genuine part of the village, and many regional council meetings are held in the village – something that would’ve been unheard of a few years ago.

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Summer news from Kindwitwi - education

Salum's  recent update also included information about education.

"We pleased to inform our friends who know of the Secondary School in Utete that the number of years that students can study has now been extended. Previously the highest level you could study up to was form four (graduating at 15 or 16 years of age) but now we also have forms five and six (so students can study up to the UK equivalent of A-Levels)," says Salum.

On the 19th of April this year the school celebrated its first Form Six graduation, where Abdullah Nguyu our Centre Manager, who is a school governor, was the guest of honour. These students then went on to sit their exams in May.

In the speech from the school they mentioned challenges that school faces like shortage of buildings, tables and chairs as well as different equipment and computers.

We are very pleased to announce your donations are going to support Rajebu, who featured in our last newsletter, to study in the sixth form at Utete School.

If you would like to contribute to our special education fund, then click here to donate via our dedicated William Powell education fund.

Alternatively you can securely contribute to help those people affected by leprosy via this link on our website.

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Leprosy update from Salum

The hand of one of the newly diagnosed patients showing finger damage due to loss of sensation in the skin at the finger.

Salum our shoemaker has sent us the latest update regarding leprosy.

"Over the past three months the outreach team detected three new cases of leprosy in the villages of Nyamwage, Jaribu and Ngorongo. All three cases presented symptoms that showed us the patients had multibacillary leprosy," he says.

All of the villages are in about a 60-mile radius of Utete, the main town in the regions. However the roads mean it can take many hourse at a time to get to each village, so we are very pleased we can make these trips to different communities throughout the Rufiji District.

You may recall from previous updates, there are two main types of the disease; paucibacillary and multibacillary Leprosy. Diagnosis is actually based on the number of poorly pigmented, numb skin patches identified by the doctor or specialist.

In very simple terms, if there are more than five patches then a diagnosis of multibacillary leprosy is given and it requires a specific type of treatment.

"The three patients identified were all adult men and sadly they did not present until they had signs of disability as a result of loss of sensation in the affected areas   Despite the vast reductions in the number of cases globally and increasing awareness about the causes of leprosy, social stigma is still highly associated with the disease and continues to be a barrier to self-reporting and early treatment," writes Salum.

"Perhaps the reason these three patients failed to come forward earlier was because of the concern that they would be rejected from their communities, lose their jobs, or even their families, if they did so. The good news is that all three patients are getting the treatment they need to recover from this infection."

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