【Yohei Sasakawa Around the World】 (5) Visit to Niger in 2008 [2020/10/30]
I would like to share with you a video taken during my visit to the Republic of Niger in August 2008 as chairman of The Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.
Niger, a landlocked western African country, is among the poorest nations in the world, according to the UNDP. Notwithstanding the many difficulties the country faces, it eliminated leprosy as a public health problem in 2003, reducing prevalence of the disease to below 1 case per 10,000 population.
During my four-day stay, I visited a local hospital and a community of persons affected by leprosy. They sang and danced, giving me a wonderful welcome. I was happy that these scenes were recorded by a TV crew as I believe such positive images go a long way to lessening the stigma and discrimination attached to the disease.
I met with the prime minister, health minister and population minister to encourage Niger to make further progress against leprosy and aim to make it the first country in Africa to eradicate the disease one day. The prime minster was surprised to see me dressed in traditional Niger attire and said it sent the message that “you are thinking about Niger’s problems with us.” He, along with the health minister, voiced support for wiping out leprosy from Niger completely, and promised to redouble efforts to that end.
In 2019, Niger detected 333 new cases of the disease, according to WHO.