The martyrdom day of Mahatma Gandhi (30th January) is observed as Anti-leprosy day throughout the world. It is also called "International Anti-leprosy day". NGOs, international voluntary agencies and government machineries observe a week-long programme starting from 30th Jan. to 5th Feb. giving scientific information on leprosy to the masses and sensitising the public on the disease.
Indian Development Foundation (formerly Indian Leprosy Foundation) inaugurated the Anti-leprosy week with the students of Angel Land High School, Andheri (West), Mumbai on 30th Jan. 2009,
"It was like real Mahatma Gandhi visiting our School", expressed Principal Mr. P.M. Alexander. The students are really happy to see a person who resembles Mahatma Gandhi, it is a blessing for the young kids, the Principal said.
Dr. Sharad Nayampally, the Social Ambassador of IDF and look-a-like Mahatma Gandhi gave a special visit to Angel Land School. The look-a-like Mahatma Gandhi expressed his feelings for the welfare and rehabilitation of leprosy patients. He quoted valuable messages of Mahatma Gandhi and asked the students follow truthful path. Awareness holds the key to lowering down the incidence of leprosy and students are best suited to spread awareness among the people, observed the look-a-like Mahatma Gandhi.
Mahatma Gandhi's cherished dream of a leprosy-eliminated India has come true. Thanks to the support of the various NGOs, national and international bodies along with the Government machinery, the number of leprosy cases has come down from 40 lakhs in 1982 to less than 1 lakh today, Dr. A.R.K. Pillai, founder President of IDF said.
"29 states/ union territories have achieved leprosy elimination status. 6 states/ UTs viz., Bihar, Chhatisgarh, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chandigarh and D & N Haveli are yet to achieve elimination. With 87,206 leprosy cases on record at the end of March 2008, the prevalence rate was 0.74/ 10,000 population", Dr Pillai said.
However, India is still contributing about 54% of new cases detected globally during the year 2007, and this trend will surely continue for some more years, Dr. Pillai added.
Mr. I. C. Srivastava IAS (Retd.), former Chairman for Board of Revenue for Rajasthan was the Chief Guest at event. Appreciating the work of IDF in the field of leprosy, Mr. Srivastava highlighted the importance of networking of NGOs for larger humanitarian benefit. Students must read the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi to know more about the towering personality, he added.
Dr. Narayan B. Iyer, National Co-ordinator of IDF gave scientific information on leprosy to the students and later an interactive session helped in clearing the doubts related to the disease. He said students' participation in leprosy elimination programmes needs to be written in the letters of gold.
Leprosy is completely curable today. An air-borne disease caused by mycobacterium leprae, leprosy was a scourge of humanity and it carried a lot of misconceptions. Leprosy is a socio-medical problem. Leprosy is a disease with a high degree of stigma attached through centuries. This was mainly because of the fact that there was no cure for the disease till the eighties and also due to disfigurement caused by the disease. Though the number of leprosy cases has come down, the stigma still prevails. A lot need to be done with regard to rehabilitation of persons affected with leprosy (PALs).
This was a part of the Anti-leprosy week activities spearheaded by Indian Development Foundation, a leading national NGO committed to health, education and rural development.