The Vice-President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, yesterday marked his 58th birthday with cured lepers at the Weija Leprosarium in Accra, during which he called on Ghanaians to extend a hand to lepers to make them feel very welcomed and part of society.
He said there was nothing wrong with showing love and affection to cured lepers by holding them, eating or talking with them, and that was the reason he decided to host cured lepers to lunch to open his official residence about three years ago.
That gesture, Dr. Bawumia explained, was to disabuse the mindsets of people about cured lepers and continue to send that positive signal.
“It is very important that we let lepers feel very welcome as part of society, so that they can have happy existence, and this is why, today, on the occasion of my 58th birthday, I want to spend this day with lepers at Weija because it gives me a lot of happiness internally to be able to spend time with all of you.
“God being so good, He has given us positions and we can use this platform to disabuse the mindsets of people about cured lepers. There is nothing wrong with holding, eating with cured lepers or talking with a leper,” the Vice-President emphasised.
He expressed regret at the fact that lepers had traditionally been ostracised in society, observing that not many people even wanted to sit next to lepers, hold their hands of or talk with them.
Wearing an all-white Kaftan, Dr. Bawumia, who was accompanied by his wife, Hajia Samira Bawumia, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Ms. Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, with the assistance of the Chairman of the Lepers Aid Committee, Rev. Father Andrew Campbell, and the Weija/Gbawe Municipal Health Director, Dr. Mrs. Abena Okoh, gave out food to the cured lepers.
He also donated GH¢10,000 and assorted items, including bags of rice, drinks, bottles of water and a bull, to the lepers.
The Vice-President and his team also interacted with the cured lepers.
Dr. Bawumia, who lost his mother last month, described the day as one of mixed feeling because he had celebrated his last birthday together with his late mother, Hajia Mariama.
He urged the cured lepers and everyone to continue to pray for the repose of the soul of Hajia Mariama.
The Vice-President, who is the Patron of the Lepers Aid Committee, was happy about the efforts and the support of the government to improve the welfare of the lepers, saying: “Thanks to the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) and the government in general; you are paying a lot of attention to issues that concern lepers.”
He told the cured lepers that President Akufo-Addo took a keen interest in the welfare of lepers, and that even when the country recorded COVID-19 cases, the President followed up to him (Dr Bawumia) to make sure that lepers got vaccinated.
Rev. Father Campbell expressed appreciation to Dr Bawumia and the government for the continued support to lepers and said phase one of a new accommodation project for lepers at the Weija Leprosarium had been completed and ready for use.
He also said work on a research centre was also underway and appealed for an auditorium for the leprosarium.
“In Wa, where we have about 700 active leprosy cases, you have built a laboratory which is completed and must be handed over. We also have seven blocks at Ankaful in Cape Coast.
“Kokofu needs renovation and Ankaful needs equipment for the laboratory, while in Ho we need a borehole,” he added.
The retired priest of the Christ the King Catholic Church in Cantonments, Accra also asked that all the lepers in Ho, Wa, Weija and Ankaful be enrolled on to the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) programme and also appealed for an increment in the funds for lepers.
He expressed concern about the continued harassment of the cured lepers by some family members for financial assistance, pointing out that instead of supporting and helping the lepers, the families were rather overburdening them with requests for money and other needs.
A cured leper, Mr. John Ampao, on behalf of his fellow inmates, thanked Dr. Bawumia and his wife for their unending support to them.
He called on all Ghanaians to continue to celebrate women, saying but for Dr. Bawumia’s late mother and his spouse, Hajia Bawumia, there would not have been a Dr. Bawumia to organise a party for them.
He expressed the hope that Dr. Bawumia would continue to stay in power for long, so that he (Mr. Ampao) and the other cured lepers would continue to benefit from his gesture.
Mr. Ampao, who is a visual artist, also took the opportunity to present a painting to Dr. Bawumia.