World Leprosy Day is observed internationally on the last Sunday of every January to celebrate people who have acquired the disease and spread awareness about it.
In Ghana, the Lepers Aid Committee, in collaboration with stakeholders, including Accra Omega Lions Club and the National Leprosy Control Programme marked the day in Accra.
Once again, Vice-President Alhaji Dr Mahamudu Bawumia joined residents and management of the Weija Leprosarium in Accra to mark the 70th Anniversary of World Leprosy Day, with a strong appeal for an end to stigmatisation against victims of leprosy.
As a Patron of Lepers Aid Committee, he said one of the biggest challenges in the fight against leprosy was the stigma against victims in society, and appealed to all “to open up our hearts to victims.”
“The stigma is coming from years of discrimination and misinformation. People feel that when you touch a cured leper, you will contract the disease. You can imagine what they go through when they are shunned by society.
“I want to admonish all that let us open up our hearts and minds to support the cause of helping lepers in Ghana.’
“One of the best and most fulfilling things to do in your life is to bring smile and joy to those who have been neglected.”
The Vice-President stated that the observation of the World Lepers Day, was an opportunity to not only lift the voices of people affected by leprosy throughout the country, but also an opportunity to “raise awareness for a disease many people think does not exist anymore,” and to raise funds in support of leprosarium.
As part of the ceremony, an appeal for support to expand facilities at the Weija Leprosarium was launched and the Vice-President, donated GH₵50,000 in support, while a representative of the National Chief Imam also donated GH₵5,000 on his behalf.
The Vice-President listed a number of interventions and support government has extended to leprosarium across the country in the past six years, including redevelopment and renovation of leprosarium.
Lepers in Ghana have been shunned and discriminated against for suffering a condition through no fault of theirs.
In Ghana, the social interpretation of leprosy regardless of the language, culture and tradition engenders stigmatization and discrimination that leads to social rejection and exclusion of persons who have been cured of the disease.
But since he assumed office Dr. Bawumia has championed the course of that vulnerable segment of the population.
His passion for the wellbeing of the leapers has seen him churn out a number of interventions including cash and kind donations on several occasions, and has gone on to become a Patron for the Lepers Aid.
Every year, Dr Bawumia dances with the cured lepers, hugged them, to tell the world that leprosy is not an infectious disease nor is it hereditary
He has supported them over the years with food items, cash donations and facilitated the construction of a multi-purpose hostel for them.
The Vice-President also hosts and eats lunch with a large body of cured lepers drawn from various parts of the country to drive home his point that there is nothing to fear from interacting with cured lepers.
In 2022, he celebrated 59th birthday with cured lepers from the Weija Leprosarium at his Cantonments residence in Accra.
The guests were served food and drinks and joined the Vice President to cut the birthday cake.
Dr Bawumia has demonstrated that people who experience leprosy have the right to a dignified life free from disease-related stigma and discrimination.
The head of the Weija Leprosarium, Rev Fr Andrew Campbell, showered praise on the Vice-President for his well-publicised efforts at fighting the stigma faced by cured lepers.
Dr. Bawumia’s presence and interaction with the lepers go to show him as a humble man who does not place himself above the underprivileged in society and is also truly compassionate.
Our society needs more people with the compassion Dr Bawumia has for the underprivileged.
We encourage the vice-President to keep up the good work and seek the blessings and protection of almighty Allah for him to accomplish his vision on earth.
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