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Yohei Sasakawa
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Leprosy Conference in India [2011年08月26日(Fri)]

Leprosy Conference in India

60% to 70% of the global leprosy patients are in India.
India succeeded in achieving less than one patient per ten thousand population, the WHO global standard of elimination, in 2005. Yet whether it was that their attention was a little bit relaxed that the number of patients has remained the same for the last few years when it should be declining.
So I asked the central government to hold another state level conference, and the Conference of State Health Secretaries on Leprosy was held in August.

Below is my opening address at the conference.


It gives me great pleasure to see all of you gathered here today to partake in the state health secretaries’ conference on leprosy. In May, I met Union Health Secretary K. Chandramouli at the World Health Assembly in Geneva. When I asked him whether this kind of conference could be organized, he agreed and immediately started preparations. It is thanks to his swift action that we have been able to meet so quickly. I wish to thank him very much for helping to make this conference possible.

There have been two conferences similar to this in the past: in Tokyo in 2002 and in Goa in 2004. Both conferences had participation of state health secretaries and other concerned parties and both proved to be epoch-making events for leprosy control in India. It is my wish that today’s conference will also serve as a turning point, to move forward in our fight for leprosy control with renewed determination.

In the late1990’s, India saw over 600,000 new cases of leprosy annually – the most of any country in the world – and that number was showing an upward trend. The prevalence rate of the disease was over 4 cases per 10,000 population. The prospect of achieving the WHO’s elimination target of less than 1 case per 10,000 population seemed remote. That changed following those conferences in Tokyo and Goa. The determination of the union and state health secretaries, WHO and NGO representatives who took part brought about a fundamental shift in India’s leprosy policy. From that point on, the states took the initiative. To promote early detection, state health authorities went everywhere. Patients received proper treatment. At the same time, the state authorities used various channels to spread awareness and educate people about the disease.

As a result of the united efforts of union and state health ministries, India achieved something that had been considered very difficult. In 2005, it finally eliminated leprosy as a public health problem. For this historic feat, India earned respect and admiration around the world. It was expected by many that if this commitment on the part of union and state governments was maintained, and if effective medical services continued, the annual number of new cases would continue to fall.

But as we all know, after achieving the elimination target, we have not been able to lower the number of annual patients to the level we had been expecting, Form over 600,000 new cases annually prior to elimination, numbers fell to approximately one quarter in the immediate aftermath. But six years on, this figure – around 130,000 new cases a year – remains more or less constant.

Even though India has achieved elimination at the national level, there are still regions at the state and district level, where progress on policy implementation has been slow. In these areas, patient numbers have remained high. During my visit to the field, I have noticed that experienced personnel stationed in the various state and district offices have been decreasing in numbers. These are men and women who were at the forefront of leprosy control measures when India was trying to achieve leprosy elimination, Further, I get the feeling that there is a general weakening in the various leprosy control measures. These include programs for encouraging early detection, promoting empowerment and educating health staff.

Of course, I understand how the need to deal with HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis takes on greater priority. Yet the suffering caused by leprosy is not limited to the disease. Delayed detection results in severe disability and the resulting discrimination affects not just the individual concerned but also his or her family. Suffering is heaped upon suffering. If local leprosy control measures fail to reach the vulnerable individuals in these regions, cases of delayed detection will occur, leading to permanent disabilities and more serious discrimination. This is the situation many people still face.

Reducing the number of patients suffering from the disease and the stigma, will require a renewed commitment from all states. Even today there are patients who hesitate to come to the hospital because they fear discrimination. If we are to get them to the hospitals, we need to spread awareness; we need to educate health workers about the disease; we need to ensure that all patients receive the treatment they need; and we need to strengthen services throughout each region.

The central government and WHO are implementing various activities to back up the commitment shown by each state. The central government formed an expert committee last December and the union health ministry has given its firm intent to address this issue from the national level. Early last month, the National Workshop was held in Hyderabad to discuss challenges of the NLEP. In addition, under the “Enhanced Global Strategy for Further Reducing the Leprosy Burden”, the WHO is fully supporting the activities being conducted by the national health ministries. Furthermore, last year, WHO published the guidelines to increase opportunity for people affected by leprosy to actively participate in leprosy services.

At this conference, I hope you will exchange ideas on the needs of each state and district, based on their circumstances. I hope you will share your ideas for improvements and innovations. If each state makes a firm commitment for early detection and appropriate treatment and if effective programs can be carried out with stakeholders, I am convinced that the number of new cases will fall.

In the context of anti-leprosy strategy, in addition to the various medical approaches, the social aspect – ending discrimination in society – is extremely important. Various NGOs, including organizations of people affected by leprosy and the media, are working together with the central and state governments, to resolve the problem of discrimination against people affected by leprosy.

On my part, I have helped found the National Forum, a nationwide network of persons affected by leprosy living in colonies, and also the Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation (SILF). The two organizations are working to bring financial independence and social empowerment to people affected by leprosy through such activities as micro-lending.

Last year, the United Nations passed a resolution on the issue off discrimination concerning leprosy. I am anticipating that discussions for concrete measures will be taken hereafter. As a nation that carries half the world’s leprosy patients, the world will be even more interested to see what measures – both medical and social – India will take.

Now is the time, for each of us to renew our resolve and for each state to make a strong commitment to the fight against leprosy once more. Let us work together to take that step forward to lower the number of cases significantly, in every state and in every district.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
1000 yen Cigarettes and release of JT shares [2011年08月24日(Wed)]

Reconstruction work will not go forward without financial resources yet...
national debt cannot be passed on to the next generation

1000 yen Cigarettes and release of JT shares

In March of 2008 when I made a proposal of “raising the price of a pack of cigarettes to1000 yen” there was uproar of reaction, both pros and cons, reported.

This time, the reaction posted on the web is rather cool and it is disheartening for the writer.

In fact, I wish for a more heated debate on this issue.


Financing Reconstruction Process with Raising Cigarette Price and Releasing JT Shares
Sankei Shinbun, morning edition, Tokyo
August 22, 2011

The recovery master plan for the Great East Japan Earthquake is still not clearly visible even after 5 months of the disaster. The government Reconstruction Headquarters in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake has estimated the total cost needed for post-disaster reconstruction would be 23 trillion yen (US$ 295 billion) over the period of 10 years. It will earmark 19 trillion yen for the first 5 years of reconstruction period yet there has been vehement objection to provisional tax hike to redeem the 10 trillion yen (US$ 128 billion) reconstruction bond that the government plans to issue, even from the members of the ruling party. As a result the issue was sent to the Tax Commission without clear statements on neither items for taxation nor the duration of the provisional tax, and the future of reconstruction process still remains opaque.

<1000 yen a pack of cigarettes is a global norm>
Prime Minister Naoto Kan who has finally declared his resignation by the end of the month promises to “be fully responsible for putting fiscal measures into effect and to secure redeemable funds” but unless he acts upon his words, the already delayed post-quake reconstruction will not move forward and the victims of the disaster will never be helped out of the difficulties that they are currently facing. Many of the citizens of Japan are showing certain understanding in sharing the increased burden for the reconstruction process as the national debt is mounting to double the GDP (gross domestic product) to a total of 943 trillion yen. I propose that this is the moment to raise cigarette price to 1000 yen a packet and to sell the government-owned Japan Tobacco Inc. shares for securing funds for reconstruction.

I have proposed the “1000 yen cigarettes” a number of times in the past and some people might frown and say, “Not again”, but an equivalent to 1000 yen for a pack of 20 cigarettes is a global common sense. The sale of JT shares too, is the obligation of Japan that has abolished the “Tobacco Business Act” that nurtured the tobacco industry and as a signatory to the ratification of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC).

The price of a pack of cigarettes was raised by 110 yen on the average last October, making a pack of major domestic brands 410 yen and imported cigarettes 440 yen. In comparison to 1200 yen equivalent in Norway, 880 yen equivalent in New York, 850 yen equivalent in London and 800 yen equivalent in Australia (conversion rate: \80/US$) the price in Japan remains still low. Not only is Japan low in price but far behind, compared to other countries, in indicating the hazardous warning on cigarette package that is obligatory under the FCTC.

The Japanese smoking population in FY2010 was approximately 25 million and total sales was 3.61 trillion yen, of which tax revenue, both national and municipal, accounts for 2.27 trillion yen. There has been a slight decline in cigarette consumption with the price rise of 110 yen, but the amount of sales continues to increase even today.

<1.7 trillion yen revenue from the sale of shares>
There is a number of research results published by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare teams on the volume of consumption should the price be raised to 1000 yen. Referring to our western counterparts who are already in the 1000 yen equivalent level, their smoking rate continues to remain at 20% of the population, I judge that an increase in revenue can be expected to be somewhere around 1 trillion yen in Japan. The total sale of JT shares of which 50.01% is currently owned by the Ministry of Finance would bring about 1.7 trillion yen at current stock price.

It seems that there are opinions within the government that it is too late to table and include the tobacco tax hike to the reconstruction-related bills in the FY 2011 third supplementary budget, and also, that there seems to be a proposal to sell only one-third of the JT shares. If there is not enough time, the solution would be to defer the implementation of the tax hike. Again, the Japanese government has ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and therefore has made a public commitment to introduce tobacco control. It goes against the principles of the FCTC for the Japanese government to continue to own a controlling stake in JT, and it is meaningless for the government to hold on to the JT shares. Therefore, it should not be one-third but all the shares that should be sold and realize a total privatization of JT.

Even if cigarette tax hike does not bring about much increase in revenue, it would be effective in decreasing the number of smokers in this country and help to promote health for the citizens by controlling damages from smoking such as lung cancer that is said to be costing 5-7 trillion yen a year.

It has been reported that Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Finance had stated that this raise of tobacco tax can be likened to “violence against middle-aged men” and that he has a negative view on the tax increase. Last autumn when many of the citizens echoed in favor to the 1000 yen a pack yet the price raise was a mere 110 yen. The reason for this was that the Ministry of Finance had the intention of setting aside the tobacco tax in separate “wallet” for later use. The resource required for reconstruction process will without a doubt swell out. It is absolutely necessary to consider all possible ways of securing the source of revenue for our country, especially at this time when the country is facing a serious financial crisis, to seek, without reserve, the cooperation of the smokers to bear the burden as well.

The “likened to violence against middle-aged men” statement is not becoming Mr. Noda who is so positive in the realization of financial reconstruction. It must never come from the Minister even as a joke. The tobacco tax has been used for a long time as a useful fiscal adjustment source. The issue of tobacco is closely related to the people’s health and it should be under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare and not the Ministry of Finance. I would like to see it act with decisive courage and take bold step to counteract to the criticism of “everything left to the discretion of the Ministry of Finance”.

<For a realistic and a reasonable decision>
There is also a nonpartisan lawmakers’ league to promote non-smoking. Yet I have not heard that this organization has taken a specific action to realize a tobacco-controlled society nor has the list of members being disclosed. It is my wish that it would take a serious and a visible action, now more than ever before, to promote health of the citizens and to secure reconstruction revenue sources.
The government which should be in the vanguard of our country has been in a most regrettable state of confusion for some time now, with stagnation in every area from diplomacy to economic policy. The wishes of the people of Japan is to make the recent devastating disaster as a start of a new nation-building, but the current political situation will not be able to respond to the nation’s desires as it is.

Without revenue, reconstruction process will not move forward. Neither can the national debt be allowed to increase further and left to the future generation. It must be equally shared by the currently living generation to share the burden and to put the national reconstruction on the right track. I believe the reasonable and realistic solution to securing reconstruction fund is the 1000 yen cigarette and the total release of JT shares.
(Yohei Sasakawa)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Young people, rise and show you care! [2011年08月22日(Mon)]

The Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia mobilized like-minded people through young people communicating via the Internet.
(Photograph reproduced from Wikipedia)

Young people, rise and show you care!

Sankei Shimbun, morning edition, Tokyo
July 13, 2011

On June 9, I wrote an open letter, “Politicians, straighten up!” to the Sankei Shimbun. Among the many who responded were heads of municipalities around the country. The sympathy and support that most expressed made me realize the extent of the sense of crisis and rising discontent toward the present political situation.

Alarming state of the lack of successors
For the past 65 years since the end of the war, Japan has avoided facing crucial issues—the constitution, national security and education that form the foundation of the state. Accordingly, we have allowed ourselves to downplay politics, and we as voters and the media have not paid attention to nurturing political leaders. The result is that today while the prime minister expresses his wish to resign there is no successor.

Politics has now been reduced to populism and handing out attractive promises. As a result, the outstanding public debt has risen to nearly 900 trillion yen, with the nation on the verge of bankruptcy. While our sense of responsibility and obligation diminish, we have allowed our demand for rights to balloon, encouraging an ambiance of irresponsibility. Excessive egalitarianism in education is resulting in a loss of individuality.

As a member of the generation responsible for creating the society we have today, I take the blame for my own inadequacy and feel I must contribute even in a small way to changing the situation for the better. Having said this, it will fall mainly on those who are young today to bear the burden. In fact, in every period it has been the young who changed our society. Unless you young men and women stand up, things will not change.

Some of us criticize young people for looking inward and for being apathetic, and scorn boys who dye their hair and wear earrings. I am not one of them. Animated films and fashions created by young people are attracting the attention of markets around the world, and our young athletes are proving their strength in world-class events. Today’s youth have the talent and are full of eagerness to excel.

Let’s let in fresh air to our stagnant society
Almost every weekend since mid April, the Nippon Foundation has been sending teams of 100 mainly student volunteers in shifts of three nights and four days to disaster-ridden areas. In one such group was the head of a fire station in Tokyo who joined as a private individual. At one of the meetings that took place at the Blue Sea and Green Land Ocean Center in Osato Town in Miyagi Prefecture where the team stayed he observed, after listening to the passionate discussion of the youngsters, “We adults say our young people are no good. The only trouble is that we are not focusing on their good qualities. Compared to the political situation we have today, the future these students will be building will be much brighter. Japan will be rebuilt.” I agree with him.

I cannot help asking why the young people are not protesting against the poverty of our political leadership. This country has enough strength to rebuild after the great disaster that hit the north east coast. It is considered a major national crisis, but our politicians are unable to work together to harness the powers they have. That is where the problem lies. While Japan stagnates and muddles through, the world is outpacing us. If we allow political confusion to continue, this country will cease to be a meaningful member of the global community and become increasingly irrelevant. It is you, our young men and women, who must bring fresh air into our stagnant society.

The popular movement called the Arab Spring that was triggered by the Jasmine revolution in Tunisia was propelled and coordinated by the young sharing information on Twitter and Facebook. Youths in the U.K. and the Republic of Korea are protesting passionately against the rise in tuition and the difficulty of finding jobs. In Greece and Spain struggling with financial crisis they are increasingly critical of their governments. I am not for encouraging students to riot, but in the 1960s and 70s it was the student movement that led our society.

I urge our young people today to hoist the flag of reform. You must not be apathetic. It is your right as well as your obligation to change society. Saying no to ‘dole-out politics’ will have the greatest impact coming from the generation that will be saddled with the debt.

As time relentlessly passes and we don’t even begin to see a blueprint for post-disaster reconstruction, a bright future can only be hoped for when young people stand up in support of the stricken communities that are doubly burdened with aging and depopulation.

Be the strong grass that weathers the harsh wind
The real mission of the politician is to share his conviction with voters. Without security no nation can exist. Politicians must therefore ask people to bear the burden when necessary. Having avoided grappling with central problems, our society has lost a sense of tension and politics has deteriorated perilously.

It is the role of the young to change this. It is wrong to think that politics will change nothing. The time has come for you to realize that the responsibility rests on your shoulders. This is no time to be apathetic.

Young friends, let us raise our voice and act. We must change the adult society that has so far not given you opportunity for social participation. We must put an end to politics that focuses on a perpetual inward-looking power struggle while neglecting reconstruction in the devastated area.

We must no longer be content with third class politics. We must not allow ourselves even for a day to be left behind in the global world. There is a saying, “When a fierce wind blows, the strong grass will stand." It is you the young people who must be the strong grass that will withstand the fierce wind, including the recent disaster and all the other challenges that this country faces.

The discontent and uncertainty of the people as a result of today’s politics have reached a critical level. We must put an end to politics that will only make us a laughing stock of the world. Now is the time for you young people to lead.
(Yohei Sasakawa)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Visit to New Delhi, India - Part 2 [2011年08月19日(Fri)]

In the lobby of the Ministry of Social Welfare and Justice…..

Visit to New Delhi, India - Part 2

I wrote in my last blog that it was my first experience“to have stayed just in New Delhi for 4 days”. However, New Delhi is the political center of India and my leprosy elimination activities will not progress without the understanding of the politicians and high government officials. Their cooperation is absolutely necessary, especially in order to bring to fruition the United Nations resolution to end unjust discrimination and stigma against people affected by leprosy and their family members, by making sure that it is put into practice.

Fortunately, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, a partner foundation of the Nippon Foundation, has been continuing a program of inviting parliamentarians from India to Japan, with the cooperation of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Thirty parliamentarians have been invited in the last eight years and as a result personal network has been well established. It must be this program that has played an important role this time as I was able to meet and renew friendship with many of the parliamentarians, such as the Deputy Minister of Defense, with their attendance at the reception despite the fact that it was on the evening of the first day of parliament.

Amongst the members of the parliamentarian delegation of the SPF program there are many dominant figures who are expected to play an important role in the future of India. Rahul Gandhi, the No.1 candidate for premiership, heads the list.

Others are Dinesh Trivedi, incumbent Minister of Railways and Sachin Pilot, incumbent Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (former Minister of State in the Agriculture and Food Processing Industries) as well as many who have become outstanding political figures of India, experiencing ministerial and state ministerial posts. They are;

Daggubati Purandeswari, Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resource and Development;
M.M. Pallam Raju, Minister of State in the Ministry of Defense;
Milind Deodora, Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology;
Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir; while
Madhu Goud Yaskhi from Andhra Pradesh is a gentleman well versed in leprosy issues.

On this recent visit I had meetings with; my old friend, Mme. Sheila Dikshit, Chief Minister of Delhi; Shri Mukul Wasnik, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment; Justice Balakrishnan, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission; Chairman Bhagat Singh Koshiyari of the Petition Committee and member of the Rajya Sabha (Council of State); and Dr. Samlee, WHO Regional Director, Southeast Asia Region.

At these interviews I introduced my theory that “leprosy is like the two wheels of a motorcycle”. The front wheel is analogous to curing the disease medically and the rear wheel is likened to the movement of eliminating unjust discrimination and stigma against people affected by leprosy and their family members. Unless both wheels are equally balanced we cannot say that leprosy is solved both as a medical and social issue. I believe that I am able to convey my passion in the work to which I have dedicated my life with this theory. At the one-on-one interviews with the reporters from the five major media, I answered to each question giving due consideration as to how best I can attract the interest of the interviewers who know very little about leprosy. India is a vast country. Although I am but a grain of millet in the vast ocean, yet I hope to be able to continue to travel extensively and energetically around the world with a firm conviction that sooner or later the problems of leprosy and discrimination will be resolved.

On my visit to the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Mr. Tatsuya Tanami who accompanied me, laughingly pointed at a slogan that was on the wall of the lobby of the Ministry. I turned my eyes to the direction of his finger and saw on the wall a slogan; “The Less You Speak, the More You Are Listened To.” We both had a good laugh saying Indians also are aware of their weak point.

As the readers already know that at international conferences it has been a while since it was said that the barometer of a good chairmanship is measured by how well the chairperson can make the Japanese speak more and hold the Indians from speaking.

It is one of my pleasures to attend Indian conferences and I am quite familiar with how it is conducted. At times there are three to four people who stand up in heated arguments and unless the chairperson intervenes, it can go on for awhile. There are some Indians who speak with an Indian accent that is incomprehensible to even English speakers. As I am quite poor in languages I don’t understand the details of their argument, but thoroughly enjoy watching their conduct and all that goes on.

After awhile things settle down but then another two or three people stand up to speak simultaneously. During all this time the mobile phones are ringing everywhere. It is interesting but this too is something one can get used to and not to be annoyed by it, neither does the chaotic bustle in the streets of India bother me in the least anymore. As a matter of fact, I even felt that I was not really in India without that noise and bustle in New Delhi on my recent trip.

Once more we had a good laugh reminding ourselves of the slogan and to know that Indians also feel strongly the importance of listening to the opinion of other people.

In Japan we say “silence is golden” but translated into Indian slogan it could very well be said that there is “no valuation without speaking.”
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Answer to the Comment [2011年08月19日(Fri)]
Answer to the Comment

I have received the following comment to my blog under the name of “Volunteer” on August 13.

“I have heard that \ 1 million aid money has been given from the Nippon Foundation to a medical volunteer practicing without a license in Ishinomaki. Even if it is an emergency, it is very unfortunate should our donation have been used preposterously.

I have also heard that it is difficult for the application of aid money to be accepted by the Nippon Foundation unless one has previous acquaintance with the local staff or to have connections with the Foundation. This brings to question what sort of relationship the Nippon Foundation has with Mr. Yoneda. Was the application examined thoroughly before the donation was given to the said person? Or were there some kind of connection with him and the local staff of the Nippon Foundation?

I totally agree that speedy relief support is very important, but I question the validity of encouraging illegal activities. I ask you once more to examine and be accountable as to how our donations are used.

Posted by: Volunteer at 2011

<Answer to the above comment>

As a rule, I feel that I am under no obligation to reply to anonymous comments, but I shall do so this time as I have judged it as a very important issue.

This incident surfaced to light due to extensive reports by the major news media (Asahi Shimbun newspaper, Nippon TV, Yomiuri TV) that a man by the name of “Kiyoshi Yoneda” was conducting volunteer medical treatment without having a license in the disaster-stricken area. The comment that the Nippon Foundation has received is in criticism of providing \ 1 million in subsidies to this individual’s volunteer group.

The Nippon Foundation believes that it is of utmost importance to provide support without a moment’s delay to victims who have received enormous losses and damages, and we have provided our emergency subsidies to NPOs and volunteer organizations as their operation funds (ceiling of \ 1 million) in the disaster areas, independently from the central and local governments. We have closed applications as of June 30, and have to date accepted to subsidize 695 applications out of a total of 2112.

The application submitted by the volunteer organization headed by Mr. Yoneda on June 6 had the following data; that Mr. Yoneda was a pediatrician and that he had been actively involved in volunteer work both in and out of Japan. The staff of the Nippon Foundation had confirmed the activities of Mr. Yoneda in the disaster area, and it is true that business cards have been exchanged, and he identified himself as a “pediatrician” on his card as well. We are currently investigating the truth of the matter, and as soon as investigations are completed and confirmation is made, we will consider taking legal action that will include the return of the subsidy.

There is no other point of contact between the staff of the Nippon Foundation with Mr. Yoneda apart from what I have stated already. We have provided the subsidy to Mr. Yoneda’s organization believing, as with all other emergency subsidy projects that it was for the benefit of the survivors, and we granted the subsidy on June 27. The serious shortage of doctors continues then and even to this day.

In the comment received it was stated that “I have also heard that it is difficult for the application of aid money to be accepted by the Nippon Foundation unless one has previous acquaintance with the local staff or to have connections with the Nippon Foundation.” It is totally groundless. I welcome criticisms addressed to myself, but I cannot allow nor overlook such a statement that invites misunderstanding towards my staff who have had only one thing in their minds since the day of the disaster to help the victims with the cooperation of the members of NPOs as speedily as possible, and as a man who represents the organization to which they belong. If what you say is true, you have nothing to hide and I would appreciate it if you would give me the details of when, from whom and how you have gotten the information, like a man, under your real name.

The March disaster calls for emergency relief activities and therefore we have not applied the strict screening standard that is applied otherwise, but we have taken care to screen more accurately and in detail than at the time of the Great Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) Earthquake. It can be said that is the fate of the work we do that we receive dissatisfaction and complaints from those whose applications have been rejected, but we have never ever made special allowances for our acquaintances. It goes without saying that the outstanding work of the many volunteers that we have supported are the source of a huge “energy” towards the reconstruction process.

It is indeed very unfortunate that this sort of an incident had to happen from among the 700 or so volunteer organizations, all with good intentions, but if we fear taking risks we will not be able to help the volunteers of good will and, in turn the distressed people in the disaster areas. Of course when a problem arises, we will be prepared to take the necessary legal measures and endeavor to solve the problem on hand. But groundless criticisms only hinder the activities of many NGOs and NPOs.

The Nippon Foundation discloses the accounts of the use of all the donations that we receive. Non-governmental volunteers and their actions serve to fill in where the government that is burdened with fiscal deficit cannot reach, and their role will become more and more important in the future to build a warm and close rapport with the society.

I have always accepted criticism sent to me under one’s real name and humbly self-examined myself where due examination was necessary and have reflected them in the activities of our Foundation’s work. I will continue to humbly accept the warm and considerate criticisms and to maximize it for the betterment of our activities so that we can be the driving force to nurture highly qualified NGOs and NPOs.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
Visit to New Delhi, India - Part 1 [2011年08月17日(Wed)]

A woman waiting to undergo a major operation sleeping in a urinal

Visit to New Delhi, India - Part 1

This is my 42nd visit to India on my leprosy elimination activities, but the first time ever to have stayed just in New Delhi for 4 days.

The Commonwealth Games were held in New Delhi last year, and the new airport and the highways have been completed, the famous honking of cars were dramatically reduced and I only saw one cow walking in the streets. There are restrictions on the height of high rise buildings and therefore the view from the hotel window was a beautiful spread of green trees and an appearance of a European city. New Delhi was like a city in a different country when compared with Old Delhi.

At a glance there is but peace and tranquility in this city and it is a pleasure to see the recent economic growth of this world’s largest democratic country and the rapid growth of its middle class, yet there are still many difficult and serious problems.

A photograph of a woman waiting for her hospital appointment living in an unused urinal was on the first page of the August 3rd morning edition of one of India’s leading newspapers, the “Hindustan Times” that was delivered to my hotel room.

All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), the largest and the most premium hospital in India, treats an incredible number of ten thousand patients and undergoes about 320 surgeries a day. Yet there are still thousands of patients waiting for their treatment. The patients are accompanied by families and friends and therefore it can well be imagined, that the number of people waiting is enormous.

Patients waiting for an operation, excluding emergency cases, extend between a few days to as long as two years. Half of the patients who are seeking treatment are poor people who come from other states than Delhi and cannot afford the travel expenses to go back home to wait for their appointment, nor have money for accommodation while they wait in Delhi. As a result they wait for their turn living in public bathrooms, subway stations or under highways.

Ms. Ramrati (45-year-old woman) has been waiting for two months just to get an appointment for an operation on her heart valve. She lived under a tree on the hospital premise until two weeks ago, but the hospital took pity on her and made arrangements so that she could live in the unused urinal outside the hospital.

The standard of medical system in Japan, with medical insurance for all, is the highest in the world. The United States has finally taken a step forward towards establishing a medical insurance system, overriding the opposition from the Republican Party. In China, a country with remarkable economic development, there is neither national health insurance nor long-term care insurance for the elderly.

It is said that about 2 billion people, one-third of the world 6 billion people, are the poor who live on $1 a day. I have come across and seen with my own eyes, many people who have never once in their lives been able to access to modern medicine, let alone a doctor’s treatment, and left to die, saying “I put myself in God’s hands.”

The use of native traditional medicine that has its roots in the history and culture of different countries is the solution to my strong desire to somehow save these people. The price of traditional medicine is one-tenth or even one-twentieth that of western medicine. Efficacy and quality management are entrusted to the responsibility of health ministries of each country. The medicine is provided in a medicinal box to each household using the Japanese traditional “Toyama Method”. The users are obliged to pay only what they have used. It has been reported that in Mongolia, they have confirmed the results of the Nippon Foundation project and are preparing a bill to make it a national project whereby the medicine kits will be delivered to every household.

It is my strong desire that this system be spread to all the poor people of the world.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
I want China to learn from Japan’s mistakes [2011年08月14日(Sun)]
I want China to learn from Japan’s mistakes

Sunday, August 14, 2011
Monthly Magazine China News Interview
September 2011 Issue

When the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, the Nippon Foundation lost no time in rushing to support and assist the helpless victims. The Foundation’s Chairman Yohei Sasakawa is known as an expert on China. I interviewed him on the disaster relief activities and the changing Japan-China relations as well as noteworthy future of that country.

―What is your particular focus in your post-disaster activities, such as that of reconstruction?

Since the Hanshin-Awaji Great Earthquake in 1995, there have been a total of 28 disasters in Japan including other earthquakes, flooding and oil spills from tanker(s). The Nippon Foundation is the only organization that has participated in all disaster relief activities. This time as well, we handed without delay a gift of 50,000 yen as funeral or sympathy money to surviving members of the family or their relatives for each person lost or missing. On the one hand, the Japan Red Cross received 25 billion yen of public contribution money, but none of it had been distributed to those in need.

Since the disaster cut the power, people in the disaster areas were not able to watch TV programs. So the Nippon Foundation established radio stations in 18 locations so that information can be sent out where people can expect to get food and clothes. We then discovered that there were very few radios stored in Japan, so we ordered 30,000 or so radios from China. We have also provided among others, caregivers for expecting mothers and sign language interpreters for those who have lost their hearing function.

At present, we have set up a system to respond to a need of anyone anytime as quickly as possible by having our own experts make routine surveys in disaster affected areas.

―What role would you say the Nippon Foundation is playing in the reconstruction efforts?

First of all, I believe the leadership the Nippon Foundation played had prompted the government at last to take action. We distributed by hand a gift of 50,000 yen for each lost or missing person. We also decided to provide loans for fishermen who lost their boats to buy new ones. The maximum amount of loan is 100 million yen, payable in 15 years at no interests. The Japanese government followed, by deciding to provide loans payable in 16 years at no interest. Our actions encouraged others to join, and with the government to come on board, so that it has today become a big combined effort.

Japan-China relations are a history of constant change

― Do you think that Japan-China relations have changed since the earthquake?
Japan-China relations are a history of constant change. There are good times and the bad, and there is never a time when it is always good.

Japan and China are geo-politically so close so that our relations are just like those between married couples. In the long span of relations, there are times when we are good friends and other times when we are not. History is a continuation of those aspects. When I visit China, I often ask them not to give me an overly impassionate welcome because I know that a reaction can turn our relations cold.

Very often our Chinese friends complain that our relationship is “politically cold and economically hot”. I think that we have the best of times today. It is a very good thing that our economic relations are stable without any political involvement. When my Chinese friends come to Japan, I make it a point to discourage them from adopting policies that will create a super rich class, but they continue to do so. Japan does not have ultra rich or very poor people, which is one of the reasons that the crime rate is extremely low.

China should collect more taxes from the rich class and share them among the poor.

I want China not to repeat Japan’s mistakes

―In which field are you focusing in China?

I am paying attention to all aspects of China because every aspect of China will impact the whole world. Chinese leaders, however, do not think this way. They still think that China is a poor country. With that as their basis, they are not able to think and act globally. In fact, if China increases its import of food, the world will be short of them. And likewise if China increases its import of oil and mineral resources, their prices will rise worldwide. Those things have impacts all around. The policy of encouraging entrepreneurs proved effective, but people who could not rise to the opportunity (of free market capitalism) remain poor.

Furthermore, with the level of Chinese economic development, there will be areas the Communist Party economic policy alone would not be able to cover. The Chinese people believe that their economy will continue to rise, but there will definitely come a time when it will decline in a big way. When that happens tens of millions of people will lose their jobs. Then China will enter a terrible period. Japan has experienced all those. People in Japan suffered enormously from environmental destruction. Also, while Japan saw the start of the aging society earlier on, but it will be China that will enter into the aging society ahead of others. Again there are many facilities in Japan for the seniors, but tragedies do take place. China would have to put policies in place to cover these things.

I do not want China to repeat the mistakes we made in Japan that is why I want them to learn from Japan.

(Interviewed & edited by Nobuaki Takahashi)
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Visit to the Central African Republic – Part 1 [2011年08月12日(Fri)]

With the escort driver

Visit to the Central African Republic – Part 1

I visited the Central African Republic on my leprosy elimination work this summer.

Central African Republic is a landlocked country that borders Chad, Southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Republic of Congo and Cameroon, with a population of approximately 4.3 million and about 1.7 times Japan in land area.

It has suffered long years of unstable political situation with coup d’états and internal uprisings and conflicts. Peace seems to be back finally in the capital, Bangui, and other areas, but there are still some unstable areas outside the capital and where foreigners cannot enter.

Even in Bangui, there are still remnants of the conflicts. For example, the hotel where we were staying at was surrounded by a 3.5meter wall, as in the photo below, and there was only one reddish brown door for the guests to use. The windows were all protected with iron frames, and of course it is forbidden to go out at night. It is not safe for foreigners at all

The present writer at the hotel door

The Delebama Health Center that I visited, located about one hour from Bangui, was also attacked by robbers a few years ago, and everything from medical instruments were plundered and everybody including the patients, fled from fear. We were told that the health center remained deserted for a while, but recently a few people are gradually returning. I looked through the patients’ medical records, and sure enough, there have not been any registrations for the last 2~3 years, which goes to prove what I have been told.

However, the greatest shock that I received on this visit was that there was no MDT, the medicine for treating leprosy patients, stocked at this health center. I have been to many health centers and health posts in the remote areas of the world, even in the worst of the environment in countries such as India, Cuba and Africa, and I have always found MDT to be in stock even while other medicines were lacking.

I was able to visit the Central African Republic which had no choice but to prioritize recovery of safety in their country, through the advice of my leprosy activities supporter, Dr. Bide Landry of WHO. The visit was so well timed because, in addition to the media interviews, I was able to meet and discuss important issues with Prime Minister Faustin-Archange Touadéra, Health Minister Jean-Luc Mandaba, Family, Social Affairs and National Solidarity Minister Marguerite Petro Koni Zeze, Minister Silibiro Sako of State for Higher Education and Researches, Minister Djimrine Sall of Technical, Vocational and Skills Training, Minister Gisele Annie Nam of Elementary and Secondary Education, President Celéstin Leroy Gaombalet of the National Assembly, Special Representative Margaret Vogt to the Central African Republic and Head of UN Integrated Peace-building Office, and also overseeing human rights issues among other officials. Through these meetings, I was able to ask the nation’s leaders to make renewed efforts towards the eradication of leprosy, and to realize a society free of discrimination towards people who are affected by leprosy, within these short meetings. I was also able to make our promise, as WHO, to help in this respect and play our due part.

We were able to carry out very effective work in the Central African Republic due also to the motorcycle escort commanded by a military man who must have been as tall as 2 meters, riding not a white motorcycle (as in many countries) but a red motorcycle. I was told that, in this country, all traffic must be stopped to the siren of the lead car and could be fined for violating this traffic law. I felt very much obliged that even the cars of ministers had to stop and give way while we were on the road.
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The Nippon Kakekomidera [2011年08月03日(Wed)]

The Nippon Kakekomidera
 − Mr. Hidemori Gen, those in the know knows him well ―

Mr. Hidemori Gen was born in 1956, in Nishinari Ward, Osaka City to Korean parents living in Japan and was raised by “four mothers” and “four fathers”. After graduating from junior high school, he started to work in a bicycle repair shop, but after that he went from one job to another to name a few, as a sushi chef, then as a truck driver, an undertaker, a manager of a cabaret, totaling to 28 different jobs. He then established his own business in areas such as real estate, finance and a research agency. He also entered the Buddhist priesthood at the age of 33 under the great High Priest Sakai Yuya. He has walked through a unique, heroic life, through dangers and difficulties. In 2000, when he was donating blood, he was found to be affected with leukemia. That made him make a total change in his life, firmly determined to devote his entire life to help the world and people who are destitute and in need of help.

This man, who knows the darker and the brighter side of society, started to offer consultations, in 2002, in an obscure corner of the biggest entertainment district of Tokyo, Shinjuku Kabukicho, in order to leave behind him the “testimony of his life”. He sits directly face to face with those who are tormented with life-threatening problems. These people who are living a life where social safety net does not reach out to them, and for whom neither the administrative, legal, nor the police are able to solve their problems. Many are reclusive people who have withdrawn from society, and penniless, or suffer under multiple loans and/or domestic violence, or who have been released from prison. Mr. Gen is a man of mettle who has already grappled with and solved many of these perplexing problems. He is a man worthy of all respects.

The timing of our encounter came as we, at the Nippon Foundation, were studying ways of what actions we could take to prevent repeated conviction of those who are released from prison, under the leadership of Mr. Hideo Fukuda. Upon learning about Mr. Gen and the work that he was doing through his NPO “Shinjuku Kabukicho Kakekomidera (Refuge Shelter),” we came to an agreement that a new corporation “The Nippon Kakekomidera (Refuge Shelter)” would be established in order to strengthen the organization and provide financial support to Mr. Gen’s NPO. The Nippon Foundation will dispatch Ms. Michiko Taki to support Mr. Gen.

Mr. Hidemori Gen and myself have come to a wholehearted understanding that we would work together with a single purpose of helping as many people who are tormented and suffering, by opening “The Nippon Kakekomidera” throughout the country in entertainment areas such as Kokubu Town, Sendai City (Miyagi Prefecture), Susukino District in Sapporo City (Hokkaido), Sakae Town, Nagoya City (Aichi Prefecture) Soemoncho, Miami ward (Osaka City), Nagarekawa (Hiroshima City), Nakasu (Fukuoka City) in the near future.

One of my philosophies of action is that we must not solely depend on the government and administration but “support the people through actions of people power”. We are hoping to depend on the kind donations from the readers for the funding of our activities, and we ask for your generous cooperation and also for your help in spreading the word. I also plan to sit together as one of the consultants to the distressed people.

I would like once again to express my gratitude to the following members of the board that have so willingly accepted to serve this organization.

Members of the Board
Mr. Hidemori Gen (Representative, NPO Nippon Kakekomidera (Refuge Temple Japan))
Mr. Kimindo Kusaka (Critic)
Ms. Miyoko Kudo (Writer)
Ms. Mimei Sakamoto (Cartoonist)
Mr. Katsuo Nakamura (CEO, Yoko Co. Ltd)
Mr. Isamu Nitta (former Chief of Osaka Prefectural Police Headquarters)
Mr. Tadashi Miyazaki (former Kyodo Tsushin)
Mr. Tsugio Yata (Lawyer and former prosecutor, Special Investigation Team of the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor)

Mr. Kakuji Takano (Takano Accounting Office)
Mr. Takami Ouchi (policy research staff, Japan Initiative)

Nippon Kakekomidera
2-42-3 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-5291-5720
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)