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Leprosy is a curable disease, but less than seventy years ago, people were dying from it. After the end of the 17th century, leprosy became a significant problem not only in the poorer countries of Africa and Asia, but western Europe as well. Because of lack of understanding about the disease, the unavailability of a cure and the disfigurement it brought to the sufferers, lepers were often ostracized in society. People suffering from leprosy were forcibly removed from their communities, quarantined, or even killed. 

In the country of Malawi in southeast Africa, people who died due to leprosy were not given proper burial. They were not buried in the ground, but either left hanging from a tree in a graveyard or tied up and put inside a hollow tree and left to die, so that the earth would not be contaminated by the disease. Such an incident is reported to have occurred in the village of Liwonde, as recently as sixty years ago.

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