New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee Saturday called for integrated leprosy services in geographically focused areas to eradicate the disease while Vice President Hamid Ansari urged for generating awareness about its misconceptions.
They were speaking at a function at the Rashtrapati Bhawan where Mukherjee presented the International Gandhi Award for 2013 to Vijaykumar Vinayak Dongre and Zhang Guocheng from China for making outstanding contributions in the field of leprosy.
The president pointed to certain areas where the prevalence of the disease was much more, given their economic and social backwardness.
He said the need of the hour is to intensify efforts towards early detection of cases, provide equitable access to appropriate treatment and integrated services in geographically focused areas.
The award was instituted by the Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi's service and scientific approach towards leprosy.
Over the years, leprosy has remained a blot on humanity. More than the medical condition, the social stigma attached to the disease is a cause for concern, the president said.
Mukherjee said there is a need to empower those who have been socially discriminated, through advocacy and information dissemination.
He said the United Nations has now passed a resolution on discrimination against people affected by leprosy.
He added efforts are being made to repeal laws that prevent people affected by it from participating in society.
This challenge can be met through a multi-dimensional and integrated approach. He urged all stakeholders to come together and make concerted efforts for its total eradication.
Speaking on the occasion, Ansari urged for generating awareness about misconception of the disease. He also pointed to its journey from curse to cure while carrying an ocean of stigma.
Referring to the World Health Organisation recommendation, Ansari called for inclusion of leprosy patients in the programme meant for them. He said any discrimination against leprosy patients was violation of their fundamental rights.
Zhang said: "Health is a pre-requisite for human survival and development. It is the basic goal of the human beings. With all colleagues in the world, leprosy workers in China will continue working for common goal of eliminating the disease globally as early as possible, building better living conditions, and promoting progress of human civilisation."
"This award," he said, "belongs to leprosy workers in China, those in India and in the world, and to people who are in pursuit of truth, loving and peace, like Mahatma Gandhi did."
Dongre said health education is the most important aspect of eradication and to remove misconception about the disease.
It is because of lack of education that a patient hides it in the initial stage that results in deformities, which is the reason behind the stigma.