New Delhi, Oct 10 (UNI) Former President A P J Kalam today called for raising awareness about leprosy saying the country faced a challenge in eliminating the stigma associated with the disease.
''The minds must be freed of biases and ignorance regarding leprosy,'' Dr Kalam said at the launch of the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation (SILF), an organization helping people affected with leprosy to return to mainstream.
The former President said a great volume of work in the areas of early detection and cure of the disease has already been undertaken by the Centre and state governments.
However, the first challenge is to eliminate the stigma associated with the disease due to a plethora of misinformation and misconceptions, he added.
In India, 11 million leprosy-cured people are up for rehabilitation. While 670 self-settled leprosy colonies exist across the country, begging is the only means of livelihood for most of the leprosy affected people.
The Foundation will dedicate itself to the task of socio-economic rehabilitation of the estimated 11 million people in India who have been cured of the disease in the last decade. Through its umbrella organisation, the Nippon Foundation of Japan, it will infuse 10 million dollars into the country for the purpose.
SILF head and the Nippon Foundation Chairperson Yohei Sasakawa said, ''The Sasakawa Foundation's efforts will be targeted towards rehabilitating those cured of leprosy through education and instituting measures to boost economic independence''.
SILF has also joined hands with corporate India to render its efforts more effective and offer its services extensively.
The corporate commitment will not be limited to providing funds for the organisation, but making concerted efforts to set up vocational training units, providing employment opportunities and infusing funds for awareness campaigns.