New Delhi: A Japanese philanthropist working to eradicate leprosy in India has said that 60 per cent of its patients in the world are in this country.
Speaking at an event here on Monday evening, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, said that his organisation, Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation, was working hard to meet the government's target of making India leprosy-free by 2030.
He said that with India observing this year as the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, known for his compassion for leprosy patients, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has managed to secure a large budget for fighting the disease.
While the rest of the world observed World Leprosy Day on January 27, this time India is observing it on January 30 because of Gandhi's birth anniversary.
Sasakawa, who is known for commitment over the last 40 years to the global fight against leprosy, said the large number of patients of this disease are in India because they do not go to the hospital after seeing early symptoms and diagnosis is late.
"Each year, around 200,000 new cases of leprosy are detected in the world," he said. "And around 60 per cent of the world's leprosy patients are India."
Stating that leprosy patients face stigma and discrimination in society, Sasakawa said that figures made available show that there are around 850 colonies of these people in India.
"But a better survey might well take this number up to 1,500."
The Japanese also said that, unlike many other countries, government officials in India were responsive and handle leprosy-related matters well. "Other countries cite lack of budget."
Sasakawa is of the view that young patients of leprosy should be provided vocational training so that they can start their own business living independently and said that the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation provides for this.
"That way, we can create a more inclusive society," he said.