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The delegation traveled in a small plane some 2,000 kilometers northeast from Kinshasa to the Wamba district, where they were welcomed by some 500 Pygmies, a people with an average height of 150 centimeters who subsist through a hunting-gathering way of life.
The party found chicken pox-like blisters and ulcers on the skin of many of the Pygmies. In many others, significant areas of exposed skin appeared to be diseased, perhaps due to poor sanitation conditions and the hardships of life in the brush. Also noticeable in certain individuals were white skin patches—a clear sign of leprosy. Many had deformed limbs. According to the Pygmies, even the seriously ill remain in the village. (Photo: Individuals with white patches on their skin, an early sign of leprosy)
Some 100,000 people live in the Wamba district, of whom 30,000 are Pygmies. 180 of these people suffer from leprosy—a ratio of 60 per 10,000. This state of affairs falls remarkably short of the WHO elimination target of less than one case per 10,000. (Photo: People with various skin conditions)
Why do so many Pygmies suffer from leprosy? “Pygmies tend to live in confined quarters, in close proximity to other members of their family,” says Dr. Jaquis, who has worked to eliminate the disease in this district for many years. “It's not uncommon for more than ten people to share the same small hut. So the risk of contagion is quite high.”
“Pygmies also lead a nomadic lifestyle, which makes it hard for them to undergo medical examinations and pick up the required medication at regular intervals. Even when medicine is delivered, the Pygmies tend to share everything equally among family members, portioning out medicine even to healthy individuals.”
After observing these conditions firsthand, Chairman Sasakawa promised to return to the Democratic Republic of Congo next year as part of efforts to eliminate leprosy among such ethnic minorities and in the nation overall.
Japan Turkey Central Asia Friendship Association: 2007 Scholars [2007/12/24]
Scholarship recipients and Ms. Vrboski, a JATCAFA representative (center)
The Japan Turkey Central Asia Friendship Association (JATCAFA, Headquarters: Istanbul) has selected 200 students from Central Asia to receive scholarships for fiscal 2007. The presentation ceremonies were held in Ankara and Istanbul on December 1 and 2. All recipients are from Central Asian countries and are currently studying in Turkey. They will each receive a monthly stipend of 80 Euro for a period of one year, beginning in October.
At the outset of this program, the Turkish government invited students from Central Asia to study on government-funded scholarships. Following that, however a combination of high inflation and the plummeting Turkish lira combined to drive scholars into poverty. Thus, since 2003 The Nippon Foundation provided financial backing for the Environment Foundation of Turkey (EFT), which until fiscal 2005 administered the program. In fiscal 2006, control of the program passed from EFT to JATCAFA. In addition to foundation support, scholarship students also receive a stipend of approximately 80 dollars from the Turkish government.
The 2007 group consists of 76 new students selected from some 500 applicants, and 124 additional students whose scholarships have been renewed this year. Of the 76 new recipients, 20 hail from Azerbaijan, 19 from Kirghiz, 17 from Turkmenistan, 10 from Kazakhstan, and 10 from Tajikistan. The scholars are studying at 14 different universities throughout Turkey. At the ceremony this year, Takeju Ogata, president of The Nippon Foundation, presented each student with a scholarship certificate.
In mid-October, before the selection of recipients, a delegation from The Nippon Foundation visited Turkey to meet the current scholarship students. “It's wonderful that Japan, a distant country, is involved with this program,” said one student. Said another: “Our country is poor. My goal is to eventually study abroad in Japan, a developed nation, to help build a future for our country.”
The overarching goal of the program is to build personnel networks between Central Asia and Japan. “We hope to strengthen courses on Japanese culture and economy and to help students achieve a deeper understanding of Japan,” said Ms. Kyoko Vrboski, a JATCAFA representative.
Asian engineers gather at Shipbuilding Forum [2007/12/19]
Asian Shipbuilding Experts’ Forum at the Museum of Maritime Science
On November 15 and 16, Tokyo’s Museum of Maritime Science, hosted the first Asian Shipbuilding Experts’ Forum, an event where regional shipbuilding engineers discussed international technical maritime regulations. The forum, which was supported by The Nippon Foundation, brought together 40 participants from South Korea, China, India, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia, as well as 90 from Japan. The purpose, in their words, was to “reflect the voice of Asian nations—which account for 90% of all newly-build ships worldwide—in international regulations.”
The international shipbuilding and shipping industries recently reviewed and revised maritime regulations, setting goal-based standards (GBS) for new ship construction and standards for ballast tank coatings. The new regulations and standards are having significant repercussions on shipbuilding design and construction, and have led to amendments to International Maritime Organization (IMO) treaties, generating considerable controversy. Asian nations have expressed deep frustration that such revisions do not reflect their views on technical issues, even though they compose the overwhelming majority of the worldwide shipbuilding industry.
Thus, the Japan Ship Technology Research Association (JSTRA), working in cooperation with representatives of the South Korean and Chinese shipbuilding industries, established the Asian Shipbuilding Experts’ Forum. This forum is intended to provide Asian shipbuilding engineers with a chance to create a common policy platform and speak with a unified voice. This first forum, which enabled participants to enhance mutual understanding through discussion, strengthened Asia’s community of engineers, thus increasing their standing in the international community. (Photo:A lively question-and-answer session)
Three themes were examined: GBS, ship recycling, and ballast tank coatings. Following presentations by delegates from Japan and South Korea, participants were invited to express their own views. A number of pressing issues were identified, such as differences in the understanding of international standards between the shipping and shipbuilding industries, and concerns about the dramatic rise in costs resulting from unilateral introduction of standards. (Photo:Participants exchanging views during a break)
Following two days’ discussion, the forum adopted the Asian Shipbuilding Experts’ Forum Framework to express their views to the international community, and to promote maritime safety and environmental protection through shared knowledge. A proposal to hold the forum annually was accepted; next year’s forum will be held in South Korea. Also approved was a proposal to explore establishing an NGO with consulting status at the IMO.
Vietnamese-born Ca Van Tran receives a certificate of commendation
On November 13, the 2007 award ceremony for people who have made notable contributions to society was held at a hotel in Tokyo. Awards are presented to individuals and organizations that have gone beyond the call of duty, making significant, but heretofore unrecognized contributions to society in their field. This year, awards were given to 43 individuals. Recipients included Vietnamese-born Ca Van Tran (55), who currently lives in the United States, delivering artificial legs to Vietnamese landmine victims, and three junior high school students from Kanagawa Prefecture whose courage saved the life of a drowning man. Each award recipient received a Nippon Foundation Prize and a cash award of 500,000 yen. Some 12,000 people have been granted these prizes since their inception by the Foundation for Encouragement of Social Contribution (FESCO) in 1971.
Since its establishment, the Foundation for Encouragement of Social Contribution has honored and supported individuals who are selected for recognition in various categories, including saving lives, advancing social welfare, educating the young, aiding international cooperation, environmental conservation, and advancing maritime safety. This year, after considering 208 nominees, the eight-member Award Selection Committee selected 43 recipients, Nine people received awards for having saved lives, 33 were recognized for social contribution, and one was recognized for sea-related contributions. (Photo: awardees)
Mr. Ca Van Tran, one of the award recipients, immigrated to the United States as at the end of the Vietnam War, experiencing numerous hardships before eventually rising to own a chain of five restaurants. Thereafter, he established VNAH, a nongovernmental organization, to assist the disabled in Vietnam. Since then, he has continued to send artificial legs to the country with support from The Nippon Foundation. By this September, he had sent more than 30,000 artificial legs in all.
“It's a signal honor for me to receive this prestigious award,” said Mr. Tran during his visit to Japan to attend the award ceremony. “It's powerful encouragement to stick with this effort to support disabled individuals in Vietnam.” (Photo: Mr. Ca Van Tran)
Also receiving awards were Mr. Masaki Yamamoto (age: 44) and his wife Mrs. Mie Yamamoto (age: 44), who operate the Kibo no Ie (House of Hope), a hospice facility in Tokyo’s Sanya district, dedicated to those suffering from terminal cancer, leukemia, and HIV.
Musashi Hiraishi (age: 12), Suguru Kubota (age: 12), and Daiki Mukaihara (age: 13), three first-year junior high school students in Ninomiya-machi, Kanagawa Prefecture, were commended for their life-saving efforts. On March 29, 2007, they came to the aid of a man drowning in the sea near their town, swam out to rescue him and called an ambulance.
Also honored were two 86-year old individuals. For the past 35 years, Mr. Masamori Hatate has transported emergency patients by boat to the mainland from Momoshima, an isolated island in Onomichi-shi, Hiroshima Prefecture. Ms. Mie Ogura of Tokyo donated funds to establish a Japanese-language school for second-generation Japanese-Indonesians and has continued to support the institution after its founding.
Past awardees include alpinist Mr. Ken Noguchi, an alpinist and Dr. Arturo Cunanan, who helped in the fight against leprosy on Culion Island, Philippines.
Journalistic Fellows from Pacific Island Nations report on Japanese Tourism [2007/12/12]
Journalists of the Pacific Island Nations at the Nippon Foundation Building
From October 21st to 28th, three journalists from the Pacific islands visited Japan under the Sasakawa Pacific Islands Journalism Fellowship and reported on efforts to promote tourism here. The fellowship, sponsored since 1991 by the Sasakawa Pacific Island Nations Fund (SPINF), aims to develop the journalistic abilities of reporters in that region. The articles written by the Fellows this year serve as an introduction to Japan and will appear in their affiliated newspapers, as well as a Hawaiian magazine with a wide readership in the Pacific Islands area.
Tourism, the theme of this year’s fellowship program, is one of the few industries capable of drawing foreign currency into the resource-poor Pacific island nations. However, efforts to develop tourism in the Solomon Islands (a collection of nearly 1,000 islands, part of which has been designated a world heritage site) lag well behind schedule. The importance of this fact is clearly illustrated by the way in which the scaling back of direct flights from Japan to Saipan has seriously weakened the island's overall economy. Given the many problems affecting the Pacific Island Nations, it was determined that the Fellows would cover the state of Japan’s tourism campaign.
In Tokyo, the Fellows examined the Visit Japan Campaign, a strategy promoted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport to attract foreign tourists. They interviewed a folklore researcher about pilgrimages during the Edo period to the Ise Shrine—journeys regarded as the origin of Japan’s travel culture. They then visited Toshi Island in Mie Prefecture, famed as the base for the Kuki suigun (navy) from 1568 to 1600. Toshi Island currently has a population of some 2,700. With fishing the island’s sole industry, the rise in the cost of crude oil and declines in fish prices have weighed heavily on island residents. In response, island women, who work as divers, have established the Shima no Tabisha (Island Travel Company) to integrate the tourism and fishery industries. The three journalists demonstrated a keen interest in these efforts.
To date, nearly 100 journalists have visited Japan under the auspices of the Sasakawa Pacific Islands Journalism Fellowship. Initially, fellows worked primarily on their own, but since 2006, the program has been expanded to recruit experienced professionals who provide Fellows with instruction on gathering information and writing articles, with the result that he three latest Fellows authored nearly ten articles during their stay in Japan.
Next year’s program theme will be “The image and importance of the Pacific Islands in Japan.”
Recovering leprosy patients enjoy a game of gateball
The nation of Nepal stretches along the ridges of the Himalayas, a range that includes the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest. Although officially a constitutional monarchy, Nepal suspended monarchial rule in 2006, and the next head of state will be elected by a constituent assembly. The nation is currently governed by a parliamentary system, with parties including the Congress, Communist, and Maoist parties, based on an assembly elected eight years ago. Although elections are scheduled for next year, the current conflict between the parties may prove to be an obstacle to elections.
Nepal’s current literacy rate is around 50%, and there is no public education system. With a per-capital GDP of approximately US $300, poverty is a major problem in the country. Its rural regions must also deal with terrorism, extortion, and plundering, reportedly by armed Maoist groups. Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has issued travel warnings to those considering visiting the nation’s capital of Katmandu. (Photo: Bustling Katmandu)
Along with Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Mozambique, Nepal is one of the few remaining nations in which leprosy persists in significant numbers. Nepal currently falls short of the World Health Organization (WHO) objective of no more than one case of leprosy per 10,000 individuals—a level at which the WHO believes public health services should be able to handle the disease. In Nepal, reasons for this failure include political instability, the resulting dysfunctional government and its failure to communicate information about leprosy to rural areas. A former leprosy patient named Ms. Gorimaya (70) living at the Kokana Colony in suburban Katmandu said that for the first 15 years of her illness, she had been unaware that treatment was available. In fact, she did not find out until arriving at the colony ten years ago.
On October 14, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, addressed a leprosy seminar in Katmandu. In his address, Mr. Sasakawa spoke of various tactics for controlling leprosy, suggesting that the most effective way to approach leprosy treatment in Nepal is to work with nongovernmental organizations to spread information about leprosy throughout rural areas. He said, “I’m firmly resolved to see Nepal finally get leprosy under control.”
Former Gallaudet University scholar calls for support of deaf education in Kenya [2007/12/05]
Mr. Nixon Kakili of Kenya
Gallaudet University a liberal arts college in Washington, D.C., is renowned for its deaf and hearing-impaired education program. In view of the university’s preeminence in the field, The Nippon Foundation has established the World Deaf Leadership (WDL) Scholarship Fund there, to support qualified students from developing nations with hearing disabilities. Recently, Mr. Nixon Kakili, a Kenyan graduate of this program who is now active in his home country’s deaf community, visited Japan to call for support for the education of the deaf and hearing-impaired in Kenya.
Mr. Kakili had previously visited Japan in 2005, at the invitation of The Nippon Foundation, to observe the state of education here at schools for the deaf and other facilities. Upon graduating from Gallaudet, he then returned to Nairobi, Kenya, where today he oversees research activities at a government agency. He is also engaged in joint research with Akita University on the effect education has on the lives of deaf women. While the primary purpose of his visit to Japan this time was to do research, he again set aside time to visit The Nippon Foundation.
Mr. Kakili was originally raised in the Kenyan countryside, and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to study at Gallaudet. “My life has changed significantly since receiving this scholarship. Without it, such an education would have remained beyond my reach.” According to Mr. Kakili, efforts to establish education for the hearing-impaired are lagging in Kenya, with virtually no opportunities for the deaf to pursue a higher education. Noting that the primary cause of this state of affairs is the Kenyan government’s lack of funds, Mr. Kakili emphasized the need for aid from Japan. (Photo: Mr. Kakili speaks at the Nippon Foundation during his 2005 visit to Japan)
At the same time, Mr. Kakili notes that the Kenya Deaf Association, charged with assisting deaf people in the nation, is not functioning adequately, commenting that “The strengthening of this association is a major issue.” Another problem that Kenya faces is the need for sign language to be officially recognized as the language of the hearing-impaired. Mr. Kakili intends to encourage educators at schools for the deaf to use Kenyan sign language.
On returning to Kenya, Mr. Kakili will follow up on a request from a Mongolian association for the deaf by launching an effort to strengthen the social infrastructure for the hearing-impaired in that country.
After graduating from Gallaudet in 1953 and earning a doctorate in education technologies, Dr. Davila worked variously as a professor in Gallaudet’s Department of Education, as a principal at an affiliated school for the deaf, and as assistant secretary at the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services in the U.S. Department of Education. From 1996 through 2004, he was the CEO of the National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Appointed interim President of Gallaudet University in December 2006, he officially became the university’s ninth president this past January. He is the second deaf president of the university, the first being the institution’s eighth president, Dr. King Jordan. (Photo: Dr. Davila, President of Gallaudet University)
Dr. Davila was in Japan with Special Assistant to the President, Dr. Richard Lytle, to tour the industrial technology department at Gallaudet’s sister school, Tsukuba University of Technology. During his visit to the foundation, he noted that, “Gallaudet has relatively few students, but they make significant progress and achieve substantial growth. We’d like to strengthen cooperative ties in the future to improve the quality of life for the deaf.” In response, Chairman Sasakawa promised to develop the two institutions’ cooperative relationship even further. (Photo: Special Assistant to the President, Dr. Lytle (left))
Issues discussed at the meeting also included education in China, India, and Latin America. “While we are continuing our work in India to eliminate the need for those affected by leprosy to beg,” said Chairman Sasakawa, “we’d like to learn more about issues related to the deaf.” Dr. Davila focused on the importance of education. “India faces a great many challenges,” he said, “and education is key to solving the problems faced by people with disabilities.”
Gallaudet University was originally founded in 1857 as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind. In 1864, it became a national university for the deaf and mute and in 1954 was renamed Gallaudet University. One focus of this institution has been the education of overseas students who will then return home to work in the deaf and hearing-impaired field.