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Yohei Sasakawa
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Less Than Quarter of Japanese Youths Have Sexual Experience: Poll [2021年08月27日(Fri)]
Have you had a sexual experience?

Various surveys show that young Japanese, who were becoming more sexually active at one stage, have become less so in recent years. This was one of the reasons why The Nippon Foundation conducted an online survey between July 17 to 24 on the subject of “Sexual Activity”, covering 1,000 Japanese across the country aged between 17 and 19.

The poll found that less than one fourth of the respondents (23.6%) had had a sexual experience, of whom a little over one in five (22.2%) had their first experience at the age of 15 or younger.

When asked whether they find sex education at school useful, more than half (58.5%) answered yes with the rest (41.5%) saying no. Queried about what they wished had been covered in greater detail in school sex education, the top answer (40.9%) was “love and healthy sexual relationships.”

The poll also showed that a great majority of Japanese youths (94.6%) feel the need to use contraception unless they want to get pregnant or get someone pregnant.

Nearly three in five males (58.5%) said they used contraceptives, while only 6.4% said it is their partners who do. Almost the same percentage of females (5.2%) said they use contraceptives and more than half (56.0%) said it is for their partners to use them. It is noteworthy that about two in three (66.7%) males and almost three in four females (73.0%) are anxious about contraceptive methods.

Asked whether they have sufficient knowledge regarding sex, less than one in four (24.3%) answered in the affirmative and almost three in 10 (29.7%) in the negative, with less than half (45.9%) saying they don’t know.

Queried about who they would consult if they or their partner suspected or confirmed a pregnancy, their mother was listed highest by both males (40.5%) and females (50.6%), followed by friends (29.5% for males and 40.7% for females). But there were wide differences between men (28.8%) and women (6.5%) in choosing to consult with their father, while 17.4% said they would not consult with anyone.

Regarding the possibility of catching a sexually transmissible infection (STI), 40.4% said they are very worried and 39.9% are slightly worried. Nine in 10 (89.5%) said they have not caught an STI, while 1.1% said they have and 0.8% said they have even though they do not know its name.

When asked about a proposal now under consideration by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare for making emergency contraception pills available without a prescription, more than 70% (71.4%) supported the idea with a small portion of them (5.5%) opposing it.

As reasons for supporting the proposal, most of them cited the need to act swiftly in case of rape or in case contraception fails (78.2%) and the need for as many options as possible to avoid unwanted pregnancy (65.1%). Many of those who opposed the proposal (76.0%) said that it would encourage an easy-going approach to having sex.

Under the Medical Practitioner’s Act, one needs a prescription issued by a medical practitioner to use an emergency contraception pill. Of course, young people should not have an easy-going attitude toward having sex. However, since such pills are ineffective unless taken within 72 hours of intercours, I believe the most realistic way is to make them available at drug stores without prescription as waiting for a doctor’s prescription could take too long. Therefore, I am in favor of the proposal.

Amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a lot more Japanese teenagers have sought pregnancy counseling. This prompted The Nippon Foundation to launch last year a pregnancy support project and set up an expert council on sex and pregnancy. We would like to use the findings of the latest survey in undertaking the support project and when making the council’s policy recommendations.

At what age did you have your first sexual experience?

Did you find sex education at school useful?

If you or your partner suspected or confirmed a pregnancy, who (other than your partner) would you consult?”
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 16:15 | A FUTURE FOR YOUTH | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation Establishes Schools to Train Prosthetics & Orthotics Professionals in Six Southeast Asian Countries [2021年08月25日(Wed)]
It has been three decades since The Nippon Foundation launched a project to establish schools to train prosthetics and orthotics professionals in Southeast Asian countries. A prosthesis is a replacement for a lost limb, while an orthosis is an external device used to support, correct or assist a limb.

Before we acted in 1991, there was not a single education and training institution in Southeast Asia that met the standards of the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO).

We started in Cambodia. The Pol Pot regime’s brutal genocidal reign of terror resulted in the killing of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians in the late 1970s and many people lost limbs years later after coming into contact with landmines used in the internal conflicts.

Mr. Carson Harte, the Founder Director of Cambodia Trust (now Chief Executive of Exceed Worldwide), was scrambling to provide artificial limbs to those disabled people and called on The Nippon Foundation for urgent assistance.

Prosthetics and orthotics professionals assess clients, prescribe, design, fabricate, fit and maintain and monitor prostheses and orthoses as well as provide education to clients. Having a proper, customized prosthetic fine-tuning is paramount in capturing the exact shape of a client’s residual limb so as to guarantee an intimate socket fit.

I was reminded of how significant it was to undertake this project when I saw a Cambodian woman with a disability dance with joy when she first wore her just-completed prosthesis and orthosis.  

Toward the end of the 26-year-long civil war in Sri Lanka, the foundation decided to establish a school to educate prosthetics and orthotics professionals locally. People in the capital of Colombo were touched to see young Sinhalese and Tamils−formerly warring ethnic groups−start to be trained together at the school and saw it as a symbol of national reconciliation. We appreciated receiving the full cooperation of the Sri Lankan government.

Initially, construction workers engaged in building the school used nothing more than a shabby container as a temporary office. But I still remember their broad smiles as they thanked me for our assistance, even though conditions were not the best, when I visited the site.

The institution has also opened similar prosthetics and orthotics schools in four other Southeast Asian countries−Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Myanmar. When operations were fully under way, the foundation handed over management of each school to the ministry of health or, as we did recently in the Philippines, to a university. The six schools all met ISPO standards.

The following table shows assistance provided by The Nippon Foundation for the establishment and operation of schools to train prosthetics and orthotics professionals in the six Southeast Asian countries:


My video message for the ceremony to mark the handover of the Philippines School of Prosthetics and Orthotics held in Manila on July 31, 2021, is available at The Nippon Foundation YouTube.

A transcript can be seen here.
“Don't Forget Leprosy” Campaign Marks 20th Anniversary as a Leprosy Elimination Ambassador (2) [2021年08月18日(Wed)]
Speaking at the first webinar of the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign on August 4, 2021, to mark the 20th anniversary of my appointment as an ambassador for leprosy elimination.  

In a recent interview with the WHO Goodwill Ambassador’s Leprosy Bulletin, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus observes: “Leprosy control is typically a marathon program; not a sprint. By nature, it tends to slip down the list of priorities when a country is hit by an acute, urgent event like a pandemic, natural disaster, or other emergency.”

“In the context of a temporary setback in leprosy control because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Sasakawa’s role is as important as ever in making sure that leprosy is not forgotten,” he said, adding: “It is also important that he maintains contact with actors in the field−including WHO, national leprosy programs, partners, and affected communities−and that he stays prepared to provide support for leprosy activities when they resume, expand, and ultimately return to their full swing.”

The 10-month “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign includes a series of six webinars; media briefings held online; TV and radio spots; videos featuring the WHO Goodwill Ambassador’s activities and messages; and the annual Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy scheduled for the end of January 2022. 

For the duration of the campaign, I would also like to share some thoughts about my role and how I have approached it in the Leprosy Bulletin (formerly known as the WHO Goodwill Ambassador’s Newsletter), which I publish every two months to share information about my activities and provide a platform for individuals, organizations and national programs to voice their opinions and encourage others through their efforts.

In my keynote speech for the first webinar of the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign on August 4, I noted that for more than 18 months, the novel coronavirus pandemic “has changed the way we live our lives. It has also affected leprosy work. In many countries, activities such as case finding, diagnosis, and rehabilitation have been cut back or even discontinued.”

“At the local level, I hear that access to health services has become more difficult. Also, that people are facing renewed discrimination,” I said, adding: “That’s why we are starting this campaign: to send a powerful appeal to the world: “Don’t forget leprosy.”

I am ready to take the lead in reaching out to stakeholders, including policymakers, to ensure that leprosy is not forgotten. We must not allow leprosy to be left behind, even amid the pandemic.


A transcript of my keynote speech for the first webinar of the “Don’t forget leprosy” is available here.

To see the latest issue of the Leprosy Bulletin, and back issues, visit here.

With WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (right) on a visit to Geneva in 2018 in my capacity as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:35 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
“Don't Forget Leprosy” Campaign Marks 20th Anniversary as an Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination (1) [2021年08月17日(Tue)]
At the first meeting of the Global Alliance for the Elimination of Leprosy (GAEL) in New Delhi, India, in 2001, I was appointed as GAEL’s Special Ambassador

At the first meeting of the Global Alliance for the Elimination of Leprosy (GAEL) in New Delhi, India, in 2001, I was appointed as GAEL’s Special Ambassador. Subsequently, in 2004, I became the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination. So, this year marks the 20th anniversary of my appointment as an ambassador for the elimination of the disease also known as Hansen’s disease.

The Sasakawa Leprosy Initiative (SLI) is using the opportunity provided by the anniversary to launch a 10-month awareness campaign called "Don't forget leprosy.” SLI is a strategic alliance between the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Health Foundation for achieving a world without leprosy and stigma and discrimination associated with the disease.

My quest for a leprosy-free world stems from an unforgettable experience I had in my younger days, accompanying my late father Ryoichi Sasakawa to a leprosy hospital in South Korea in 1976.

Seeing him tour the wards, hugging each patient, encouraging them and telling them to have hope, that’s when I thought that I should take up this work and carry on from my father. It was a gut feeling. Just how big an influence it has been on my life, and how much I have been enriched, is something I am still appreciating.

I have three personal philosophies that I use to guide my actions: 1) the place where problems are happening is also where solutions will be found; 2) taking action to transform society requires a strong and committed spirit that can withstand hardships; and 3) I must keep going until results are obtained.

Based on these philosophies, in my capacity as ambassador, I have traveled to almost 100 countries in order to learn about problems and solutions firsthand. I have met with hundreds of decision-makers, including kings, presidents, prime ministers, ministers of health, and finance ministers as well as people affected by leprosy, whose communities I make a point of visiting.

During the 20 years that I have served in this role, 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.

At the initiative of The Nippon Foundation, the Japanese government proposed a resolution on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, and in 2010, it was adopted unanimously by the U.N. General Assembly in New York along with principles and guidelines for same. This was a historic achievement for people affected by leprosy and their family members and a culmination of my years-long efforts with the support of other stakeholders to persuade the member countries of the world body to address leprosy not only as a medical issue but also as a human rights issue.

Despite the considerable progress achieved, however, 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.

With this in mind, the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign was conceived.

(To be continued)

The logotype of the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:40 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
Book Recounts More Than 30 Years of The Nippon Foundation’s Support for People with Visual Impairment [2021年08月12日(Thu)]
A new book, PARTNERSHIPS FOR CHANGE: National Strategies -- Regional Collaboration, depicts more than 30 years of The Nippon Foundation’s support for people with visual impairment around the world.

For more than three decades, The Nippon Foundation has supported people with visual impairment around the world as part of its efforts to create a truly inclusive society.

Our campaign started in 1989 with the establishment of an international scholarship endowment at the Overbrook School for the Blind based in Philadelphia in the United States. In 1998, that initial endowment was supplemented by a second that created the “Overbrook-Nippon Network on Educational Technology” (ON-NET), a regionally based program working with blind youth in the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

This was followed in 2006 by a joint initiative with the International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment (ICEVI) that has provided support resulting in greatly expanded access to inclusive higher education, largely in the ASEAN region.

This journey of over 30 years to support blind and partially sighted people not only in Southeast Asia but throughout the world is depicted in a recently launched book. PARTNERSHIPS FOR CHANGE: National Strategies --Regional Collaboration illustrates many “lessons learned” over the past three decades on how to identify impediments, develop sustainable solutions and create an environment for cross-border collaboration that will allow the changes being achieved to continue.

In addition, the book, available both on paper and online, has incorporated many personal stories of persons with visual impairment, including those who received higher education and continue to lead the way in creating more inclusive communities that leave no one behind.

The text is supplemented by 53 embedded videos that provide the reader with the opportunity to “meet” many of the young blind individuals who have led the way in creating the partnerships and the changes achieved. It is possible for the visually impaired to access the content of the book.

I hope that all who read this book will learn from it and share it with others that are pursuing similar efforts to improve the education and employment outcomes of persons with visual impairment in their respective countries.

During the World Blindness Summit 2021 held in Madrid, Spain, from June 28 to 30, a reception was held to mark the launch of the book in the presence of its authors−Dr. Larry Campbell, special advisor to ICEVI, Dr. M.N.G. Mani, CEO of ICEVI, and Ms. Wenru Niu, Program officer of ON-NET−and other distinguished guests.

My video message for the launch ceremony can be seen on The Nippon Foundation YouTube channel.

A transcript is available here.

If you are interested, the book is available here.

With a participant in the quadrennial World Blindness Summit held in Florida, the United States, in 2016.
Making Bags from Discarded Fishing Nets to Tackle Ocean Plastic Waste [2021年08月10日(Tue)]
Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi (center right) and the author (center left) at a press conference on July 20, 2021, to announce that a group of companies, supported by The Nippon Foundation, will put on sale bags made from discarded fishing nets in October.

I was delighted to be joined by Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi at a press conference recently at which The Nippon Foundation and a group of companies announced that bags made from discarded fishing nets will go on sale on October 1.

The initiative to collect and recycle used fishing nets is expected to prevent fishermen from dumping their old nets into the ocean and is part of the country’s efforts to tackle the issue of marine plastic waste.  

About 8 million tons of plastic debris are discharged into the world’s oceans each year. In Japan, 20,000 to 60,000 tons of plastic trash flow into the sea of which fishing nets and lines account for 20% to 30% of the total, according to 2016 statistics compiled by the Environment Ministry.

Speaking at the event at The Nippon Foundation on July 20, Environment Minister Koizumi began by disclosing he himself already uses a bag made by this group from discarded fishing nets. 

Noting his ministry attaches great importance to combating the problem of ocean plastic litter, he said he strongly supports this project, which adds value to the fishing nets by “upcycling” them.   

Mr. Koizumi said he would be handing out pens made from marine plastic waste and a leaflet on Japanese business initiatives to reduce microplastics as examples of Japan’s campaign to combat ocean debris when he attended a meeting of Group of 20 Environment Ministers in Naples, Italy, two days later.

I told the news conference that I have long been looking for ways to recycle used fishing nets and was thus particularly pleased by this initiative to turn them into fashionable bags. I expressing my gratitude to the group of Japanese companies comprising the multi-industry “Alliance for the Blue” project The Nippon Foundation launched in July 2020 to cope with the issue of marine waste. The foundation hopes to work with a lot more companies in various industries to help combat ocean litter.

Mr. Shozaburo Yuri, president of the Hyogo Prefecture Bag Industry Association known for its trademark Toyooka Kaban (Toyooka Bags) from the western Japan prefecture, said its member companies developed bags made from discarded fishing nets as a way to contribute to the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDG).

After the press conference, Minister Koizumi and I toured an exhibition on the first floor of The Nippon Foundation featuring about 50 Toyooka bags made from recycled nets, followed by a discussion among representatives of bag and textile manufacturers, recycling and other firms as well as The Nippon Foundation and the Alliance for the Blue secretariat on their achievements so far and challenges ahead.

Speaking at a press conference at the Nippon Foundation on July 20, 2021, on “upcycling” discarded fishing nets into bags.

The press conference was covered by many journalists and cameramen.

Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi taking a look at bags made from discarded fishing nets after the press conference.

Bags made from discarded fishing nets by a group of Japanese companies comprising The Nippon Foundation’s multi-industry Alliance for the Blue project.

Bags made from discarded fishing nets to be put on sale both online and in selected stores on October 1, 2021.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 16:32 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
“Setouchi Oceans X” Project to Achieve “Zero Marine Waste” Gets Under Way [2021年08月05日(Thu)]
Speaking at a symposium on July 4, 2021, to formally kick off “Setouchi Oceans X,” a project by The Nippon Foundation and four prefectures that encircle the Seto Inland Sea in western Japan aimed at achieving “zero marine waste.”

I visited Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, in July to attend a symposium to mark the formal kickoff of “Setouchi Oceans X,” a five-year project by The Nippon Foundation and four prefectures that encircle the Seto Inland Sea in western Japan aimed at achieving “zero marine waste.”

The three-hour hybrid event on July 4 was attended by a total of about 500 people, some in person and many others virtually, representing municipal governments, companies, research institutes, NPOs, universities, sports and cultural organizations, and other stakeholders in the four prefectures of Kagawa, Ehime, Hiroshima and Okayama.

In a video message, Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi pointed out that inland seas such as the Setouchi Inland Sea typically have a relatively small inflow of marine litter from outside oceans.

“So, if we go all out in trying to reduce marine litter to almost zero in the Seto Inland Sea, we will be able to see what we can achieve,” the minister said.

In my remarks to the symposium, I noted that this is the first inter-prefectural project designed to combat and eliminate marine debris in Japan and one of the very few such projects in the world.

“I hope that Japan as an ocean state will lead the way in fighting the world’s ocean debris by successfully carrying out this project, making the Seto Inland Sea a model for the rest of the world,” I added.

Governor Keizo Hamada of Kagawa Prefecture expressed his resolve to promote the Setouchi Oceans X project as one of the prefecture’s top priorities, working closely with the foundation and the three other prefectures as well as business circles and as many residents of the region as possible.

Then, experts from universities and research institutes gave presentations on the mechanism and effects of plastic litter discharge to the inland sea based on their research using cutting-edge technologies. They were followed by live online reports from the four prefectures showing the amount of plastic and other waste washed up on shore and campaigns by local residents to collect it.

According to the foundation’s estimate, 4,500 tons of waste are dispersed into the semi-enclosed Seto Inland Sea annually, of which only 1,400 tons are collected.

The Setouchi Oceans X project aims to slash the amount of marine debris in the sea to “infinitely close to zero” by reducing trash inflow by some 70% and increasing trash collection by a little over 10% over the next five years. The foundation will cover the cost of the project, totaling 1.5 billion yen (about 13.8 million dollars).

Under an agreement I signed with the governors of the four prefectures in December 2020, the four-pillar project calls for:

(1)   Researching the origins and flows of marine litter, using a supercomputer, satellites and drones−both aerial and underwater−to draw wide-area maps of marine debris and scientifically visualize the seriousness and extent of the marine debris problem as well as working closely with local fishermen in gathering waste using trawl nets and other means.

(2)   Having the foundation assist businesses and organizations in the four prefectures in promoting their programs to combat marine litter.

(3)   Undertaking large-scale beach cleanup campaigns across the four prefectures and holding seminars to get across to citizens the importance of tackling ocean waste and how they can contribute to addressing the problem.

(4)   Formulating guidelines based on five years of activities under the project for redesigning ways to fight marine waste that can be used by the rest of the country and the world.

I sincerely hope that the Setouchi Oceans X project will produce tangible results in cleaning up the Seto Inland Sea in five years to make it become the role model for redesigning ocean waste policies in other countries.

Governor Keizo Hamada of Kagawa Prefecture expresses his resolve to promote the Setouchi Oceans X project as one of the prefecture’s top priorities.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:29 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation Donates 100 Oxygen Concentrators, Pulse Oximeters to Indian State to Help It Combat COVID-19 [2021年08月02日(Mon)]
Mr. N. Biren Singh (third from right), Chief Minister of Manipur State in northeastern India, receiving the oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters donated by The Nippon Foundation at a ceremony in Imphal on July 8, 2021. The equipment is intended to help the state fight the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

The Nippon Foundation has donated 100 oxygen concentrators and as many pulse oximeters to the state of Manipur in northeastern India to help it fight the South Asian country’s second wave of novel coronavirus infections.

At a ceremony in the state capital of Imphal on July 8, the 52 million-yen (about $470,000) worth of equipment was handed over to Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh and Principal Secretary of Health and Family Welfare V. Vumlunmang by Dr Thangjam Dhabali, founder president of Manipur Tourism Forum (MTF), and Imphal Peace Museum director Haobam Joyremba on the foundation’s behalf.

Chief Minister Singh expressed his gratitude to The Nippon Foundation, noting that the equipment would be very helpful in dealing with the deadly waves of the pandemic prevailing in the state.

Currently, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Manipur is outpacing that of hospital beds available, requiring many patients to self-quarantine at home. Even though infections reported in the whole of India have been on the decline in recent weeks, those in the northeastern state are trending upward once again.

This has led many experts to predict a third wave of infections hitting that part of the country, underscoring the need to prepare.

Under these circumstances, The Nippon Foundation decided to donate 100 battery-operated oxygen concentrators−medical devices that compress oxygen from the air−that can be used during power outages, and 100 pulse oximeters, which can easily detect irregular blood oxygen levels, to help the state improve the quality of home medical care of COVID-19 patients.

The decision came as the foundation and its partner organization, the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, came to realize how dire the infection situation is in Manipur through contacts with the MTF with which we worked together to establish the Imphal Peace Museum in June 2019 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal between the Japanese army and Allied forces−one of the fiercest battles of World War II.

The Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society, an NGO based in India, and the MTF assisted us with local coordination with the state government.

Arranged by Kintetsu World Express and ANA Cargo, the equipment was shipped by air to Delhi, arriving on June 21, and from there was transported 2,500 kilometers by road to Manipur, arriving on June 29.

The Nippon Foundation and the Sasakawa Peace Foundation sincerely hope that the equipment will help the state of Manipur to improve home medical care service for COVID-19 patients to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters ready for shipping at an ANA Cargo distribution center near Narita International Airport on June 18, 2021.

The oxygen concentrators and pulse oximeters being loaded at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo for shipment to Delhi on June 21. (Photo provided by ANA Cargo)

The shipment arriving in Imphal, the capital of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, on June 29 after being transported by road from Delhi.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 17:56 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)