Honored by WHO Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Award (1) [2022/06/21]
It was a great honor for me to be recognized with the WHO Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Award 2022 for my “forty years of commitment to fighting leprosy and the stigma and social discrimination it carries.”
I was one of six individuals and groups from across the world to receive the award, which was established in 2019 to recognize “outstanding contributions to advancing global health, demonstrated leadership and commitment to regional health issues.”
The awards ceremony was held in Geneva on May 22 as part of the live-streamed high-level opening session of the 75th World Health Assembly, the WHO’s decision-making body.
In presenting the awards, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “At a time when the world is facing an unprecedented convergence of inequity, conflict, food insecurity, the climate crisis and a pandemic, this award recognizes those who have made an outstanding contribution to protecting and promoting health around the world,” adding that these awardees “embody lifelong dedication, relentless advocacy, a commitment to equity, and selfless service of humanity.”
As I was en route from Malaysia to Geneva in the course of a two-week, four-nation tour, Dr. Takahiro Nanri, executive director of the Sasakawa Health Foundation, received the award on my behalf.
Director-General Tedros noted that as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Japan’s Ambassador for the Human Rights of Persons Affected by leprosy, I have visited many countries to advocate for leprosy control with national leaders and policy-makers, but added: “He has also made a point of meeting people affected by leprosy, in some of the most disadvantaged groups.”
“We are grateful for Mr. Sasakawa’s dedication to working with WHO to reduce and in some countries even eliminate leprosy and to stand up for human rights,” he said.
The other recipients of the award were:
Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA), the more than 1 million female volunteers in India who play a crucial role in linking the community with the health system. ‘Asha’ means hope in Hindi.
Dr. Paul Farmer, who passed away in his sleep in February, was chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of Partners in Health.
Dr. Ahmed Hankir, a British-Lebanese psychiatrist, is a senior research fellow at the Centre for Mental Health Research in association with Cambridge University and academic clinical fellow in psychiatry at King’s College London.
Ms. Ludmila Sofia Oliveira Varela, a youth sports advocate from Cabo Verde and a member of the Cabo Verde national volleyball team, has worked to facilitate access to sports for all, providing a healthy alternative to risky behaviors among young people.
Also honored were eight volunteer polio workers who were shot and killed by armed gunmen in Takhar and Kunduz provinces in Afghanistan on February 24, 2022. Four of the victims were women. The eight volunteers were reaching thousands of children through house-to-house campaigns in north-eastern Afghanistan.
(To be continued)