The Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor in Anambra State, Most Rev. Paulinus Ezeokafor, has awarded scholarships to 26 inmates of the Oji River Leprosy Settlement in Enugu State.
The bishop said he facilitated the gesture through a colleague of his living in Germany, Rev. Father Martins Ibe.
He said the gesture was part of the activities marking the World Leprosy Day.
The cleric also donated different gift items to the settlement, including 15 crutches, 11 matresses and mats, bags of rice, tubers of yam, cartons of noodles, among others.
Presenting the items, the Bishop explained that the gesture was part of his humanitarian services to the centre, which he started right from his youth as a priest in 1984.
He said, “For the past 10 years, I have been visiting this centre. Today is the first time I am visiting on a Sunday, which coincided with World Leprosy Day.
“I’m happy at what I am seeing today. I also appreciate other organisations and kind individuals for their support to the inmates.”
The prelate however decried the level of stigmatisation being meted out on the inmates by members of the public, even when they have been certified leprosy-free medically.
The prelate regretted that the appeal he made to the Enugu State Government to evacuate them from the centre in order to reintegrate them into the larger society was yet to receive attention.
“It is better to reintegrate them into the larger society than to allow them take to begging.
“It is one thing to encourage them to go back home, it is yet another to provide them with useful skills in order to make them useful and productive to the society,” he added.
Responding, the chairman of the settlement, Chibuko Udenze, expressed appreciation to the benefactor for the gesture, appealing for more assistance in terms of drugs and scholarships.