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WHO Sasakawa Health Prize awarded to Morhan [2008/06/18]

Commemorative statue presented by Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General [left]

The 2008 Award Presentation Ceremony for the World Health Organization's (WHO) Sasakawa Health Prize was held at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, on May 22nd. Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation presented USD 40,000 in prize money and a commemorative statuette to the winner, the Brazil-based Movimento de Reintegracao das Pessoas Atingidas pela Hanseniase (Morhan), which supports and promotes the cause of individuals recovering from leprosy. (Photo: Members of Morhan in Rio de Janeiro)

The Sasakawa Health Prize, which honors individuals and groups that make innovative contributions in the field of health and sanitation, was this year awarded Morhan for its work to winning social acceptance in Brazil society for those recovering from leprosy. Brazil is still considered endemic by the WHO.

Established in 1984 to advance the goals of the WHO's Health for All initiative, the WHO Sasakawa Health Prize is presented to individuals and organizations that contribute to health promotion and primary healthcare. From 1985 through 2008, the prize has been awarded to 20 groups and to 29 individuals.

As a private-sector organization, Morhan engages in sustained efforts to control leprosy in cooperation with Brazil's Ministry of Health. These broad-ranging activities include prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and activities intended to win societal acceptance for individuals recovering from leprosy. Morhan undertakes both educational and informational services designed to fight bias and discrimination. The group has also established a community center to prevent the spread of leprosy and has helped the Brazilian government establish laws safeguarding the human rights of individuals recovering from leprosy. (Photo: Members of Morhan make frequent visits to leprosy facilities)

In 1988 Morhan held 12 academic conferences to address issues faced by individuals recovering from leprosy. Over the years 1986 through 1988, it also took part in establishing a new constitution for Brazil. The organization also provides continuing support for thalidomide patients, the disabled, and the socially disadvantaged.

“We hope this prize will encourage Morhan to do even more,” said Chairman Sasakawa at the Awards Presentation Ceremony, praising Morhan's work.

Morhan member and recovering leprosy patient Torres gave a speech on receiving the prize, describing the organization's joy at receiving the prize and emphasizing its plans to continue working to promote respect for those recovering from the disease.

“We will continue to fight discrimination against leprosy patients,” he said. (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa delivers a congratulatory speech)

According to the WHO, the Democratic Republic of the Congo successfully brought leprosy under control as of the end of 2007. WHO defines success as a rate of infection of below one case per 10,000 population. Today, only three nations – Mozambique, Nepal, and Brazil – have yet to bring leprosy under control. (Photo: Torres delivers a speech on Morhan's receiving the prize)
Posted by TNF at 14:27 | Leprosy | URL
Fighting Leprosy in Nepal [2008/03/31]

Leprosy elimination activities in Nepal (1:51)

Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation visited Nepal for five days in February, delivering words of encouragement to health workers who promote leprosy elimination activities and leprosy patients in the Chitwan District. Along with Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Brazil, Nepal remains one of the few nations in which leprosy persists in significant numbers. Its goal is to control the disease by the end of this year.

The Chitwan district has more leprosy patients than any other area in Nepal. While the prevalence of leprosy in Nepal is 1.2 cases per 10,000 people, that number rises to 1.9 in the Chitwan district. The district has six health centers, which together comprise 31 smaller subhealth centers. Based at these facilities, local health workers and volunteer groups work to diagnose and treat people affected by leprosy. (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa with female health workers)

Groups of female volunteers are particularly active in fighting the disease. Ms. Mina Giri, the representative of a group that has pursued these efforts for 19 years, explained their general approach to newly-diagnosed leprosy cases. “If we diagnose leprosy and immediately tell the patients, they may not seek out treatment for fear of discrimination. We usually take our time and try to communicate the diagnosis in the most delicate way possible so that their reaction isn’t just shock.” (Photo: Ms. Mina Giri, a female volunteer leader)

Their efforts have produced solid results, and Nepal appears to be on course to attain the World Health Organization (WHO) elimination target of less than one case of leprosy per 10,000 people. “We’re close to controlling the disease,” said Chairman Sasakawa in encouraging the workers. “Your efforts will eventually lead to the elimination of leprosy in Nepal.” (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa encouraging leprosy patients at a health center )

Chairman Sasakawa also met with King Gyanendra at the palace in Katmandu, the nation’s capital, for the first time since November 2006. The king demonstrated a deep understanding of the leprosy eradication activities. Said Chairman Sasakawa, “I want to continue visiting Nepal until leprosy has been controlled.”

The seven major political parties that comprise the interim government in Nepal have agreed to abolish the monarchy after the constituent assembly vote scheduled for April. Those opposed to the decision have carried out bombings and other actions, making the general atmosphere much less secure. Even during the brief time Chairman Sasakawa and his team stayed in Nepal, the national police clashed with extremists in Chitwan district.
Posted by TNF at 10:30 | Leprosy | URL
India--Individuals affected by leprosy gather from 24 countries [2008/03/26]

International Leprosy Conference (2:03)

This past January, over 1,200 people attended the 17th International Leprosy Congress in Hyderabad, India. Participants included representatives from leprosy-related NGOs, governments, and the World Health Organization (WHO). In addition, people from twenty-four countries, who have been affected by leprosy, also took part. Held every five years, this International Leprosy Congress was held from January 30 to February 4 and was divided into various sessions—current eradication efforts, human rights, education and enlightenment, psychology, pathology and medicine—all of which featured lively discussions.(Photo: Main venue where 1,200 participants gathered)

January 30, the first day of the congress, was the anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, and has been designated Leprosy Day in India to commemorate his efforts to control the disease. Special speeches were given on that day by Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO Special Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy, Dr. Klaus M. Leisinger, President and CEO of the Novartis Foundation for SustainableDevelopment , and Mr. Rigo Peeters, President of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP). Since 2000, the Novartis Foundation has assumed oversight of various activities from the Nippon Foundation, including the provision of free multidrug therapy (MDT) for leprosy. The speakers discussed past activities and future plans. (Photo: Dr. Klaus M. Leisinger, President and CEO of the Novartis Foundation)

Chairman Sasakawa stressed the importance of both disease eradication and restoration of human rights, comparing these efforts to a motorcycle. “The front wheel symbolizes activities to eliminate the disease. The rear wheel symbolizes efforts to end social discrimination. Both wheels need to be the same size.” He also referred to Global Appeal 2008, (held in London on January 28 with the cooperation of international human rights NGOs, which aimed to help restore the dignity of people affected by leprosy) and reported on his appeals to the United Nations Human Rights Council. “Grassroots activities will change society,” said Chairman Sasakawa, seeking to inspire participants. “Those who have been cured of the disease must themselves play an important role.” (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa giving a speech)

Reports indicate that approximately 16 million leprosy patients were cured around the world during the period from 1985 to 2006. Although the number of new patients has declined year by year, around 260,000 new cases of leprosy were diagnosed in 2006. While leprosy has become less common, social discrimination against the disease remains strong. This state of affairs calls for those affected by leprosy to themselves speak out, and for countries to exchange information. (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa and individuals cured of leprosy attending the Congress)
Posted by TNF at 11:20 | Leprosy | URL
Global Appeal 2008 [2008/02/27]

Sasakawa with the presenters of Global Appeal 2008

On January 28, Global Appeal 2008 to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy was launched at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. Appeals have been issued every year since 2006, to coincide with World Leprosy Day, the last Sunday in January. The aim of the effort is to eliminate leprosy and solve the human rights problems related to the disease. This year, the third global appeal was signed and announced by the representatives of ten international organizations that are engaged in global activities to protect human rights. Among the groups are Amnesty International, the International Commission of Jurists, the International Save the Children Alliance, the World Women’s Summit Federation, and the Nippon Foundation. (Photo:The Royal Academy of Medicine)

Leprosy is only weakly infectious, and has been curable since the 1980s. However, even individuals who have been cured of leprosy frequently face discrimination and prejudice, due to residual disabilities such as deformations of the face, hands or feet. In addition, family members are also discriminated against in terms of education and employment opportunities. This year’s appeal aims to overcome such discrimination.

The global appeal was read by Sahira Adam Hamadi (11) and Ame Juma Muhamed (12), children from Tanzania who have overcome the disease. This was the first time the two children had been out of Tanzania and they appeared surprised to see such a large audience, but read the appeal in clear, steady voices. (Photo:Presenters of the Global Appeal)

Global Appeal 2008 was an initiative of Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for the Elimination of Leprosy and Japan’s Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of People Affected by Leprosy. In his keynote speech, Chairman Sasakawa asked for the cooperation of all involved parties, saying, “Let us work together to solve the human rights problems of leprosy, in keeping with the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Chairman Sasakawa and other advocates will continue their efforts, aiming to establish guidelines for eliminating discrimination related to leprosy at the United Nations Human Rights Council and to pass a related resolution at the United Nations General Assembly.

*The movie is here

Posted by TNF at 10:16 | Leprosy | URL
Thoughts of Nepal’s King Gyanendra [2008/02/18]

Yohei Sasakawa (left) and King Gyanendra

Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of the Nippon Foundation, visited Nepal from February 1 to 5 to observe the status of leprosy in the country. Following his inspection of local sites, he had an audience with King Gyanendra for the first time in about two years, the last being in November 2006.

The king has a deep understanding of leprosy elimination activities and thinks highly of the efforts of Chairman Sasakawa, commenting, “Leprosy elimination activities are being carried out in a very intelligent way. Attempting to end not only the disease but also discrimination is a wonderful approach.”
At present, with the constituent assembly vote coming up in April, security in Nepal has deteriorated and extremists have carried out bombings in various locations to obstruct the election process. In regard to this, the king implied that the decision as to the continuation of the monarchy should be left to the public, saying, “You may notice that there have been a lot of changes in this country since we last met … the constitutional assembly election must be carried out freely, fairly, peacefully, and safely. If that happens, I believe the many citizens of this nation will come together and make the right choices.”

Since the political change in April 2006, King Gyanendra has not appeared in public and has kept his silence. However, he voluntarily answered questions from the Japanese reporters accompanying Chairman Sasakawa--the first time since 2006 that he has expressed his political opinions to the foreign media.

Summary of the statement of King Gyanendra on February 4

The interim government, which consists of six ruling parties and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), agreed to abolish the monarchy at the end of 2007 and stipulated the transition to a republic in the interim constitution. However, this decision does not reflect the voice of a majority of the people. It is not democratic for party leaders alone to determine the political system. If a free, fair, peaceful, and safe election is conducted, I believe that most people will choose monarchy. The election should reflect the voice of the people. Democracy needs to be strengthened in each village and at the grass-roots level. I hope everything will be democratized.
It is said that the majority of the people do not have opportunities to express their opinions and do not have freedom to choose. Katmandu is only a part of Nepal. The voices of people living in the hills and mountains as well as in the Terai region are not being listened to. Unfortunately, I have been informed that not everything goes well under the interim government in Nepal. Laws are not being upheld and public order is disturbed. Nepal was once a peaceful and stable country, but we now find ourselves in dire circumstances.
Some of the leaders in the interim government act contrary to the cultural, social, and traditional values of Nepal. Many people recognize this fact, and evaluate if such actions are right.
It is my desire that the international media go to the streets and directly ask people what they think. They should more frequently speak with ordinary people in Nepal and report the situation to international society.

*The movie is here.

Posted by TNF at 14:47 | Leprosy | URL
Ceremony held to commemorate Tanzanian control of leprosy problem [2008/01/14]

Presentation of plaque commemorating leprosy control.
(Right: Former Tanzanian Health Minister Anna Abdullah)

On November 12, in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, Yohei Sasakawa, (chairman of the Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination) visited the United Republic of Tanzania. The purpose of the visit was to attend a ceremony commemorating the 2006 elimination of leprosy in the nation. At the ceremony, Sasakawa congratulated all parties involved, calling for further efforts to "free former patients from the discrimination that they continue to face."

Approximately 50 people attended from the Tanzanian Ministry of Health, the WHO, and various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Also in attendance was former Health Minister Anna Abdullah, whose father had suffered from leprosy, and who had worked hard to bring the disease under control.

In December 2006, Tanzania achieved the WHO's leprosy-control target of less than one affected person per 10,000, and today only four countries remain in which leprosy has yet to be controlled: Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, and Nepal. (Photo: Visiting with leprosy patients)

Chairman Sasakawa and his team also examined the state of leprosy elimination work on the Tanzanian islands of Zanzibar and Pemba: home to 600,000 and 400,000 people respectively. Although leprosy is under control on a nationwide basis, these islands have yet to achieve WHO’s goal, standing at a figure of 1.4 per 10,000.

However, Zanzibar’s national hospital receives leprosy patients on an outpatient basis, a fact of which the public is well aware. Further, when the delegation visited the village of Mikindani on Pemba, they found that the 30 patients residing there were living with their families. Both situations show a very positive trend regarding social attitudes toward the disease. (Photo: People who once had leprosy, with their families)
Posted by TNF at 11:02 | Leprosy | URL
Leprosy among the Pygmies of D.R. Congo [2007/12/26]

Pygmies anxious on seeing a camera for the first time

On December 10, Chairman Yohei Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, visited the Democratic Republic of Congo, where leprosy has yet to be eliminated, for the purpose of examining an ethnic minority known as the Pygmies, which is battling a high prevalence of leprosy.

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.

Posted by TNF at 10:09 | Leprosy | URL
Leprosy in Nepal [2007/12/10]

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.”
Posted by TNF at 10:36 | Leprosy | URL
Foundation group visits leprosy-care facilities in Azerbaijan [2007/11/26]

On the road to the facility

On October 21, foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa lead a delegation on a tour of leprosy-care facilities in Azerbaijan. Though his position as the World Health Organization’s goodwill ambassador for leprosy elimination has taken him to countless such places around the world, including those in India, Africa, and South America, this marked his first such visit in the South Caucasus region.

The focus of the trip was a national sanatorium in the village of Umbak, 60 kilometers south of the national capital in a desert bordering the Caspian Sea coast. Constructed in 1953—the year of Stalin’s death—as a joint facility to be used by the three Soviet republics of the South Caucasus region (Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan) the facility housed more than 200 patients at its peak in 1960. (Photo: Chairman Sasakawa greeting each resident individually)

However, preceding the collapse of the Soviet Union and the independence of the three South Caucasus nations in the 1980s, the number of patients declined due to the use of multidrug therapy (MDT). Today, the facility only treats roughly 30 patients from within Azerbaijan. Director Arief described the difficulties faced by the facility: “We used to have a number of patients from Georgia and Armenia. But now, with the facility deteriorating, the government cannot even afford the repairs that we need.”

The sanitarium was constructed adjacent to Umbak village, located in the Gobistan desert two hours south of Baku on an unpaved road. According to Director Arief, a number of similar facilities were constructed across the Soviet Union before its collapse.

In recent years, Azerbaijan has attracted considerable attention for the oil and natural gas that it produces. “I didn’t even know leprosy facilities existed in Azerbaijan,” said Mr. Rabal Bashirogle, a reporter from a local news agency who accompanied the delegation. “The financial state of the government must be better, what with the recent rise in crude oil prices, and I don’t understand why this facility is languishing in this condition.” (Photo: An oil storage station on the Caspian Sea)
Posted by TNF at 12:00 | Leprosy | URL
Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation Begins Operations [2007/10/31]

Headquarters of the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation

The Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation, registered in New Delhi in December 2006 with an endowment of one billion yen, is dedicated both to supporting individuals with leprosy, and to empowering those who have had the disease as they return to school or work. The Foundation is scheduled to launch full-scale aid projects, including scholarships, occupational training, and micro-credit programs that will help colony residents establish new businesses. At the peak of leprosy’s prevalence, India was home to some 70% of those with the disease. However, since the 1980s, when multi-drug therapy (commonly known as MDT) was introduced, more than 11 million people have been cured in India alone.

It is an unacceptable fact, however, that discrimination and stigma continue to impact those affected by leprosy, forcing countless numbers to live in colonies, deprived of educational or occupational opportunities. This is even true for those who have been cured. Many are forced to eke out a living as beggars. Worse, this ostracism extends to family members.

In an effort to bring this state of affairs to the attention of the world, The Nippon Foundation, led by Chairman Sasakawa, brought together eleven world leaders in January 2006 to make a Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy. Cosigners included former US President Jimmy Carter and the Dalai Lama. In January 2007 as well, a second appeal was issued, this time with the participation of sixteen representatives of those affected by leprosy from around the world. (Photo: Mr. Noordeen (left), staff members, and Mr. Sasakawa)

As an outgrowth of its interest in bringing about an end to leprosy-related human rights violations, in December 2006 The Nippon Foundation registered the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation (SILF) with Indian authorities, aiming to support those affected by leprosy in their efforts to regain their rights and take back their dignity.

On March 26, at its new office in New Delhi, Dr. S.K. Noordeen (also president of the International Leprosy Association) was elected president of SILF. Ms. Vineeta Sinha, a cultural anthropologist, was appointed secretary general. (Photo: Ms. Vineeta, Secretary General of the Foundation)

To date, research supported by the Nippon Foundation has established that at least 700 colonies exist in 27 of India’s 38 states and union territories. Many other places of refuge, established by state governments, hospitals, and various organizations, also accept those fleeing discrimination.

However, the organizational structure, support activities, and other aspects of such organizations remain undocumented. As a first step for the new foundation, this essential data must be collected from around the country and compiled into a comprehensive database. It will then be possible to determine which colonies require what kind of support.
It will also be crucial to persuade Indian business communities to contribute. The Nippon Foundation has asked Mr. Tarun Das, Chief Mentor and former Secretary General of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), for assistance with the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation. Mr. Das has cordially accepted the offer and will serve on the board. With his aid, SILF aims to draw on India’s growing sense of corporate social responsibility, collecting enough donations to match The Nippon Foundation’s endowment.
Posted by TNF at 09:49 | Leprosy | URL
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