Friday, 5 May 2017

Jubilation at Orji River Leprosy centre as Bishop Ezeokafor distributes relief materials to the disadvantaged

By Abuchi Onwumelu

The Catholic bishop of Awka Diocese, His Lordship Most Rev. Dr. Paulinus Ezeokafor, on Thursday, 27 April, 2017 paid a humanitarian visit to the Oji River Leprosy Centre. The bishop during the visit distributed food items and other relief materials to the inmates.

   Delivering the food items, Bishop Ezeokafor said the gesture was part of the missionary works of the Church, noting that Oji River Leprosy Centre which was under his diocese, would never be abandoned.

   The Catholic prelate said his first visit to the centre was in 1986 in his second year as a Catholic priest, noting that he had never looked back since then.

   'I started in 1986 in my second year as a priest; you know, as a young priest I had just little. But that did not deter me from reaching out to them. I do it every year. The items increased after my consecration as a bishop ten years ago,' he said.

   The bishop who gave them words of spiritual upliftment, urged them to be joyful in their condition and remember that God was aware of their case.

    He exhorted them to continue to believe in God who he said healed all sicknesses and to engage in acts that would guarantee them heavenly kingdom.

   He noted that it would be bad for anyone to suffer on earth and also suffer hereafter. Bishop Ezeokafor called on the Enugu State Government to take more deliberate steps to ameliorate the suffering inmates at the centre.

   He said the Church would continue to contribute to the training of the children at the centre, adding that already, no fewer than 27 of them were on the scholarship of the diocese.

   Speaking to news48hrs.com, the chairman of the Oji River Leprosy Centre, Mr Benjamin Udenze, who said he had been there for 15 years, said there were no doctors or medicine for the patients, noting that the poor attention they received had resulted in the death of no fewer than five patients of the about 19 persons, including children quarantined since January this year.

  He said the hospital at the centre was not functional as the federal and Enugu State governments were not paying attention to their plight.

    Udenze who complained that families of most members had abandoned them, said the serious lack of access to food and medicare had made his members to resort to street begging to make ends meet.

    Also speaking, Rev. Fr Romanus Okongwu, the Catholic chaplain of the centre and the Parish Priest of St. Michael's Catholic Church, Ugwuoba, said it was not in the best interest of public health that the leprosy patients were allowed to roam the streets and markets.

  Okongwu said there was need for government to take the front seat in the care for the people and ensure that the primary school at the centre became effective to save the future of the children.

   He said efforts should be made not only to check the spread of the disease but ensure that people who came to the centre were healed and freed to return home.

   Rev. Fr. Okongwu called on the government to save the inmates and public from further pains by delivering consistent wellbeing service to the centre. This is even as he thanked those who had shown concern.

   In his remark, the Anglican Chaplain, Rev. Raphael Amazu, thanked the bishop for his continued support for the centre, noting that apart from medical lack, the buildings and other amenities at the centre were dilapidating, adding that most inmates now chose to remain in the cities.

    Rev. Amazu said bedding, toilet and bathrooms at the centre were no longer adequate for human use and begged government at all levels to come to the assistance of the victims.


   Some of the food items distributed included bags of rice, bags of semolina flour, bags of Garri, Cartons of Noodles, tubers of yam. Etc.

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