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Yohei Sasakawa
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“Traveling Around the Globe”: Memoirs on My Life-Long Quest for Leprosy-Free World Published (2) [2021/09/06]
The Japanese media have dealt extensively with the agonies inflicted upon persons affected by leprosy and their family members over the years in Japan, but the global fight against the disease has hardly been reported.

During the 20 years that I have served in the role of a leprosy elimination ambassador, significant progress has been made toward the elimination of leprosy. Thanks to the combined efforts of many stakeholders−including the WHO, national governments, NGOs, people’s organizations, and leprosy specialists−almost every country has achieved elimination of leprosy as a public health problem, reducing prevalence to less than 1 case per 10,000 population.

But the number of new cases of leprosy reported worldwide has remained almost unchanged for the past 10 years at about 200,000−and now, with the onset of COVID-19, efforts against leprosy have been set back by demands on governments to respond to the pandemic.

Besides, the stigma and discrimination persons affected by leprosy and their family members face remains a major barrier to the prompt diagnosis and treatment required to interrupt transmission once and for all. If anything, it is a lesson we have learned in our fight against leprosy that stigma against COVID-19 patients is nothing but a drag on our pursuit to conquer the disease.

My mission as the WHO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination is not over yet. I need to keep on working harder to complete it as leprosy is an ongoing issue.

I want to leave a written record of what society was like for those who will look back on these times 50 years from now.

As the book describes in detail, I have lived by the conviction that my “battlefield” is where the problems lie as that is where solutions can be found. I can never solve a problem by sitting in a comfortable air-conditioned office reading reports from my staff. --------------------------

Soon after I launched the book in July, a friend of mine told me that the cover resembles the poster for the 1970 Italian movie “Sunflower” starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. I am not a big fan of movies, but I looked into it.

It’s true, the cover image is like a still from the movie, which was the first western movie to be filmed in the then Soviet Union, with the closing scenes shot in the sunflower fields in Khorsen oblast south of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. I am told that this movie, directed by Vittorio De Sica, is one of the foreign movies most loved by Japanese.

The photo used for my book cover was taken in Russia in 2012 on our road journey from Astrakhan to Krasnador in southern part of the country. I discussed the cover design with Ms. Natsuko Tominaga, The Nippon Foundation’ photographer, who almost always travels with me. From a selection of about 10 photos, it did not take us long to agree on the sunflower photo, and I think we made a great choice.


The cover of my book: “Traveling Around the Globe.” The photo was taken in Russia in 2012 on a road journey from Astrakhan to Krasnador.

The poster for the 1970 Italian movie “Sunflower” starring Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)