Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In the fight against leprosy, a fight that must be led from both a healthcare and social point of view, particular attention needs to be paid to children affected by the disease, that count over 40 thousand in the world today, with 12% of all new cases found in children under 15. They risk seeing their “future being mortgaged by the negative consequences of the disease”. That is the Vatican’s appeal to public institutions and all those committed to battling against Hansen’s disease as it is also known, contained in a message launched by the president of the Pontifical Council for Healthcare Workers, card. Javier Lozano Barragán, to mark the 56th World Leprosy Day celebrated on January 26th and published today.
The document notes that the most recent calculations of the World Health Organisation, which refer to the year 2007. In that year there were 254,525 new leprosy cases, with 212,802 people already treated. Unfortunately – it continues – “children are not speared this disease. According to the calculations of the AIFO, the Italian Association of the Friends of Raoul Follereau, each year in the world there are 40,000 children with leprosy, and about 12% of all new cases of leprosy are children under the age fifteen”.
In the year of the XX Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child’, and mindful of the predilection of Jesus Christ for them ‘for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 19:14), “I appeal to those who lead government organisations to pay special attention – in the implementation of health programmes and plans in the various countries of the world – to children who are sick with leprosy and run the risk of seeing their futures mortgaged by the negative consequences of their illness. From this flows the urgent need for public institutions to give practical expression to ‘the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health’ that is attributed to them in article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
Unfortunately at a social level albeit unfounded fears still persist that are generated by ignorance about Hansen’s disease. These fears generate feelings of exclusion and often burdensome stigma towards who are afflicted by leprosy, making them especially vulnerable. This ‘Fifty-Sixth World Day’ is thus a suitable opportunity to offer the human community correct, broad and capillary information about leprosy, about the devastating effects that it can have on people’s bodies if they are not treated and on families and on society, and to stimulate the individual and collective duty to engage in active fraternal solidarity”.
Card. Barragan recalls the Churches long history of special care for those with leprosy, with the voluntary work of religious congregations and institutions and lay care workers. Among these the message recalls blessed Damiano di Veuster, “the untiring and exemplary apostle of our brothers and sisters afflicted by Hansen’s disease”, is “the symbol of all those consecrated to Christ with religious vows who still today dedicate their lives to such people, making available all their resources for the overall wellbeing of those afflicted who are by leprosy in every part of the world”, while “The world of the Catholic laity has its champion in Raoul Follereau, the originator and promoter of this ‘World Day’, who continues his beneficial action through the ‘Association of Friends’, which is dedicated to him”.
“It is good and comforting to observe” – concludes the message – “that in this struggle against Hansen’s disease non-governmental associations and organisations are present that go beyond religious, ideological and cultural affiliations, all of which meet each other in the common goal of bringing to those who are sick the opportunity of regaining a state of social, health-care, and spiritual wellbeing. In particular, our gratitude should go to the Sasakawa Foundation for the inestimable contribution that it has made for decades to this cause by financially supporting the institutions of the international community in research in the field of treatment”.