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Global Appeal 2022 Urges World Not to Forget Leprosy Even Amid COVID-19 Pandemic [2022/02/25]
World Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of January. The purpose of this international day is to increase public awareness of leprosy. This year, the date was January 30.

I have been working for more than 40 years to fight leprosy not only as a medical issue but also as a human rights issue because of the associated stigma and discrimination. I have traveled to more than 120 countries to see the situation for myself. But honestly speaking, I have to acknowledge that my voice has not been loud enough to fully get across my message. In some developed countries I visited, I was sometimes asked: “Is there still leprosy in the world?”

But it is an ongoing disease. Over the past decade, some 200,000 new cases of leprosy have been reported annually worldwide. According to the WHO’s “Global leprosy update” for 2020, however, there was a 37% year-on-year decrease in new cases due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted case-finding activities.

It is very important to reach the many people without knowledge of leprosy and allay their fears by explaining that it’s not hereditary, it’s not divine punishment, and it’s not highly contagious. Wherever I go, I always stress that it is a curable disease, that treatment is available free of charge and that there is no justification for discrimination

Since 2006, I have issued an annual Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy to coincide with World Leprosy Day, supported by influential individuals and organizations around the world. During the coronavirus pandemic, this call to eliminate stigma and discrimination is more important than ever.

This year, Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative (SLI) invited 37 philanthropic foundations from 15 countries to join the 17th annual appeal, which calls for an end to marginalization of persons who have experienced leprosy and the realization of a just and equitable society that respects the human dignity and fundamental freedoms of all its members.

SLI is a strategic alliance that links together the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, the Sasakawa Health Foundation, and The Nippon Foundation for achieving a leprosy-free world. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the second year in a row all Global Appeal-related activities took place online.

Global Appeal 2022 states: “Even today, persons affected by leprosy and their families continue to face social rejection in various parts of the world, and this has been made harder to bear by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

It concludes: “In the spirit of philanthropy, we call for a society in which everyone can live a dignified life enjoying all their basic rights.”

In my video message to the virtual launch ceremony, I said: “Many issues have been sidelined because of the COVID-19 pandemic, among them the challenges posed by leprosy,” adding that despite the current difficulties, “we must not allow any facet of this disease to be neglected. This includes its human rights dimension: the stigma and discrimination that continue even after complete cure.”

I look forward to working together with all those foundations and others in a spirit of philanthropy for a world free of leprosy and associated discrimination even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The text of the Global Appeal 2022 follows:


Global Appeal 2022

In recent times, we have seen how fear of disease has changed people’s behavior, creating divisions in society and widening inequalities.

Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, has had this effect.

It is one of the world’s oldest recorded infectious diseases.

In the past, people with leprosy were ostracized out of fear of infection.
It was seen by some as a divine punishment or a curse.

Leprosy is now curable, but myths and misconceptions remain.

Even today, persons affected by leprosy and their families continue to face social rejection in various parts of the world, and this has been made harder to bear by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

As foundations, we are committed to contributing to the public good.
Addressing social injustice and building a better world is at the heart of what we do.

Discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their families is an issue of human rights.

No one should be stigmatized on the basis of a disease.

In the spirit of philanthropy, we call for a society in which everyone can live a dignified life enjoying all their basic rights.


For further details, please visit the Global Appeal 2022 official website.

The text and video of my message to the Global Appeal 2022 virtual launch ceremony can be seen here.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:15 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
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