MAURICE OKAFOR writes that at an occasion to mark the 2019 international world leprosy day held on Sunday, January 28, the inmates of Oji River Leprosy settlement in Enugu state decided to seek for help from various organizations both public and the private sector including spirited individuals, so they can finance some of their projects which would boost their economic empowerment.
Their immediate need at the moment is to set up Garri processing machines, development of fish ponds and other micro enterprises that will help them to be self-reliant and fend for themselves.
The inmates made the appeal in their address read by their welfare officer, Mrs Cecelia Igbokwe, as Bina Foundation, a Non-Governmental organization[NGO] based in Enugu which cares for people with special needs and some other organizations joined them in celebration of the 2019 world leprosy day, at their base camp within the Oji River leprosy settlement.
The Welfare officer Mrs Igbokwe lamented that the increasing population of the inmates with their families at the settlement demands internal mechanisms and arrangements that will help the inmates to sustain themselves.
She stressed many of them have acquired skills that can enable them operate some micro enterprises but of most important to them now is the project of establishing a Garri processing factory and fish ponds, stating there is a professional fish farmer who can train many other people within the settlement, once they raise funds to start the fish farming business.
Mr Omenke Emmanuel, one of the medical directors in charge of dispensing drugs to the inmates explained that there are no longer leprosy patients within Oji River leprosy settlement. That those of them who are living within the settlement are better described as ‘Pals’ whose major problem were after effect of stigmatization through which the larger society dissociates from them with gross implication that they find it extremely hard to be re-integrated into the society.
He explained that modern science has proved that ‘multi drug therapy is what used in curing leprosy at the moment within two weeks, once the disease is detected early enough. But whenever the disease is not detected early enough, even though it can still be cured but the cancerous wounds are what eventually becomes the burden for medical attendants and thereby constitutes source of stigmatization to the patient.
Speaking at the event, the Founder of Bina Foundation, Lady Pharmacist Ifeoma Atuegwu, represented at the event by Mrs Chioma Chikwnedu commended the theme of the 2019 World Leprosy Day tagged, ‘Ending Discrimination, Stigma and Prejudice’ stating the inmates and others need to be catered for, administered with love and care by the larger society.
The 2019 world leprosy day as celebrated at Oji River Leprosy settlement, Enugu state also featured sing songs and drama by children of the inmates, cultural dance display by there wives and a prayer session organized by the Diocese of Oji River[Anglican Communion] in which the Bishop of the Diocese, Dr Amos Madu, was fully represented.
There were also thick entertainment provided by the Archbishop Emeritus, Enugu Ecclesiastical province, Dr Amos Madu, who is also the Bishop of Oji River diocese[Anglican Communion].