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Yohei Sasakawa
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Honored by WHO Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Award (2) [2022/06/22]
The famed Nepalese mountaineer Mr. Mingma Gyabu Sherpa with a “Don’t Forget Leprosy” sign at the summit of Mount Everest on May 15, 2022. I included this photo in my video message for the WHO Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Awards ceremony on May 22 for my quest for leprosy-free world.

Since I was unable to attend the ceremony for the WHO Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Awards in Geneva on May 22, I prepared a video message in which I expressed my heartfelt gratitude for the prestigious honor and called on the delegates to the opening session of the 75th World Health Assembly to join me “on the last mile to end leprosy.”

“I still remember the faces of patients, who had been abandoned by their families and society, when I visited a leprosarium for the first time 46 years ago. They were empty of hope,” I said. “That’s when I began my fight against leprosy.”

In 2001, I was appointed as a WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination. Based on my belief that problems and their solutions are found in the field, I have traveled to more than 100 countries, spending time in jungles, deserts and mountains.

“Efforts to address the disease and the human rights issues associated with it have come down to the last mile. However, there is a saying in Japan: On a journey of 100 miles, 99 miles is only halfway,” I said.

Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, activities against leprosy in many countries have had to be scaled back. The COVID-19 pandemic has also dealt a serious economic blow to individuals and communities of persons affected by leprosy, many of whom were already in a vulnerable position.

In light of the situation, I initiated a “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign in August 2021 to send the message that leprosy and those affected by the disease must not be overlooked even amid the COVID pandemic.

The “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign has consisted of a number of components. These include: webinars (the sixth was held on June 7); online media briefings; TV and radio spots; videos featuring my activities as WHO Goodwill Ambassador; and the annual Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy launched at the end of January.

The campaign was scheduled to run until the end of May 2022, but has been extended for another year due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

In my video message to the award ceremony, I shared with the audience a photo of the famed Nepalese mountaineer Mr. Mingma Gyabu Sherpa taken at the top of Mount Everest with a “Don’t Forget Leprosy” sign.

He is the youngest person to climb all 14 of the world’s mountains above 8,000 meters high and for holding the Guinness World Record for “fastest time to climb Everest and K2,” which he did within 61 days.

He reached the summit of Everest at 6:45 a.m. on May 15, 2022, and sent the message “Don’t forget leprosy” from the highest point on Earth. This was at the suggestion of Mr. Santa Bir Lama, president of the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA), who with funding support from The Nippon Foundation has helped Nepal push forward in its drive to eliminate leprosy.

I truly appreciate their support.


The text of my video message to receive the WHO Director-General’s Global Health Leaders Awards can be seen here.

This video message is available from here.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
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