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Yohei Sasakawa
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Let’s Unite for “Zero Leprosy” [2019/09/25]


Group photo with participants of the Global Forum of People’s Organizations on Hansen’s Disease, in Manila, on September 9, 2019.

During my recent visit to Manila to attend key international conferences on leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, I called on participants, including academics, medical stakeholders and those affected by the disease, to unite toward the goal of “Zero Leprosy,” a historical challenge for humankind.

I first spoke at the Global Forum of People’s Organizations on Hansen’s Disease on September 9 and then at the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC) on September 11 in my capacity as Chairman of The Nippon Foundation and World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.

The Global Forum, organized by The Nippon Foundation (TNF) and its sister organization, the Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF), brought together some 60 representatives of organizations of persons affected by leprosy from 23 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America. 

In my remarks, I enthusiastically welcomed their participation in the forum, thanked them for sharing their experience of the disease, and underlined the important role they can play in tackling stigma and discrimination.

I called on them to urge their governments to fully implement the UN General Assembly resolution and accompanying principle and guidelines unanimously adopted in 2010 on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. From the time TNF and SHF started to raise the leprosy issue as a human rights problem at the UN, it took seven hard years of lobbying and the efforts of many stakeholders before the resolution was adopted.

The delegates to the Global Forum then attended the subsequent ILC, hosted by the Philippine Department of Health, where a person affected by leprosy from the Philippines presented the forum’s conclusions and recommendations based on the preceding four days of discussions.

In my address to the ILC, I shared my experiences over the last 40 years, during which I have devoted myself to the struggle to eliminate leprosy and its associated stigma and discrimination from the world, visiting 120 countries and regions. And meeting with 150 national leaders and countless numbers of those affected by leprosy.

Noting the contribution to date of many individuals and organizations that have worked hard for the elimination of leprosy, I heartily welcomed the formation last year of a new coalition of stakeholders, the Global Partnership for Zero Leprosy. I believe that this collaboration will greatly enhance our work toward achieving “Zero Leprosy.” 

Taking this into account, I expressed my opposition to leprosy being considered as one of “the Neglected Tropical Diseases.” “Leprosy has never been neglected even for a moment by both persons affected and by people who have worked hard for their betterment. In my opinion, this medical terminology feels like it is looking down on the patients and also shows lack of respect towards those who are still fighting against leprosy today.” 

Leprosy is an ongoing issue and there is still much work to be done. To medical stakeholders who attended the congress, I requested that they continue working on discovering the causes of transmission of leprosy, developing a vaccine, and creating prosthetics and orthotics for those with impairments. I also noted that with globalization and migration, there are new cases, even in countries that used to see few cases. “However, the number of leprosy medical specialists is decreasing rapidly worldwide.”

During my stay in Manila, I also had the extraordinary honor to be conferred the prestigious degree of Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, by Father Jose Ramon T. Villarin, S.J., President of the Ateneo de Manila University of the Philippines, for my lifes work against leprosy.

I receive this degree together with all those who have worked with me. Now, I am encouraged to take even further action in my remaining years,” I said at the 2019 Traditional University Awards of the Ateneo de Manila University.

3.jpgSpeaking at the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC) in Manila, on September 11, 2019.


Receiving the degree Doctor of Humanities, honoris causa, from Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, S.J., President of Ateneo de Manila University,in Manila on September 10, 2019.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:10 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)