New Delhi, February 16, Abhijit Saha: The President of India Pranab Mukherjee presented the International Gandhi Award for 2013 to Dr. Vijay Kumar Vinayak Dongre and Prof. Guocheng Zhang for outstanding contribution in the field of leprosy on Saturday at Rashtrapati Bhawan.
On this occasion the President said that we need to increase our efforts towards early detection of leprosy cases, provide equitable access to appropriate treatment and provide integrated leprosy services in the geographically focused areas.
Mr. Mukherjee said that the scourge of leprosy has remained a blot on humanity over the years and that the social stigma attached to the disease is a cause for concern more than the medical condition. He also said that those who have been discriminated socially on account of leprosy needs to be empowered through advocacy and spreading information.
He also said that although social challenges persist for leprosy it is heartening to know that United Nations has a resolution on discrimination against people affected by leprosy and efforts are being made to repeal laws that prevent people affected by leprosy from participating in society.
Mr. Mukherjee also congratulated Dr. V.V. Dongre and Prof. Guocheng Zhang both of who have dedicated several decades of their lives to eradicate leprosy through research, training and treatment. He also said that the latest World Health Organization Expert Committee has set the challenge to reduce the rate of new patients with disability due to leprosy to one in a million by 2020.
The President said that this challenge can be met only through a multi-dimensional and integrated approach. He insisted on all stakeholders to come together and make concerted efforts for the total eradication of leprosy and also wished the Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation and all those involved in this noble mission all success in their efforts.
The Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation instituted The International Gandhi Award to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s service and scientific approach towards leprosy. This award is given to two individuals or institutions on every alternate year for making outstanding contribution in the field of leprosy.