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Yohei Sasakawa
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The Nippon Foundation Donates 2 Million Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine to Myanmar [2022年01月28日(Fri)]
1 million doses of the Indian-made Covaxin novel coronavirus vaccine donated by The Nippon Foundation arrive at Yangon International Airport on January 9, 2022.

The Nippon Foundation has donated 2 million doses of the Indian-made Covaxin vaccine to Myanmar to help it fight the novel coronavirus.

At a ceremony at Yangon International Airport on January 9, Mr. Yuji Mori, executive director of the foundation, handed over 1 million doses of Covaxin to Dr. Maung Maung Myint, president of the Myanmar Red Cross Society, in the presence of Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama.

This was Japan’s first delivery of COVID-19 vaccine to Myanmar, according to the foundation. The remaining 1 million doses were delivered on January 23.   

During a visit I made to Myanmar in November 2021, I talked with various stakeholders about how best the foundation can help the country with humanitarian assistance, especially in their fight against the novel coronavirus. I also visited IDP (internally displaced person) camps in the western state of Arakan for a first-hand look at the lives of IDPs and how they are coping amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

What I learned through these meetings was that Myanmar was facing acute shortages of COVID-19 vaccine across the nation and that people were disappointed by Japan’s failure thus far to provide vaccines to their country even though it has given them to other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). I found it unfortunate because people in Myanmar have a history of being quite friendly toward Japan.

This prompted the foundation to provide Myanmar with the Indian-made Covaxin vaccine, which is considered to be of high-quality and is accessible in large volume. I sincerely hope the vaccine will be administered to those who have yet to get their shots, especially IDPs.

Looking back, the foundation struggled hard to secure and deliver the Covaxin to Myanmar as our negotiations with the Indian vaccine manufacturer, Bharat Biotech, got off to a rocky start. Normally, governments negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies over large-scale vaccine purchases−for example, then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga called Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla in April 2021 to expedite vaccine deliveries to Japan−and not private entities such as The Nippon Foundation, so this was something different.

Even after we agreed on the date for delivery, the company refused to transport the vaccine to Myanmar, insisting on handing over the order at their factory in India. We then managed to find a transport company that delivered the shipment from India to Myanmar via Dubai.

As of time of writing, there have been over 534,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Myanmar and over 19,000 deaths, according to the WHO. With three or four Japanese among those reportedly dying of the disease, there had been widespread anxiety in the Japanese community over the lack of vaccine availability, so I am pleased to note that the Myanmar Red Cross Society readily accepted our request for Japanese residents of Myanmar to receive the Covaxin.

Despite the ongoing political and social uncertainties in the country, we are determined to support the increasing number of IDPs and others in need of relief by providing food, medical and other humanitarian assistance with the help of the hardworking staff of our Yangon office.

At a handover ceremony at Yangon International Airport on January 9, 2022, Dr. Maung Maung Myint (left), president of the Myanmar Red Cross Society, Mr. Yuji Mori (center), executive director of The Nippon Foundation, and Japanese Ambassador to Myanmar Ichiro Maruyama (right).

The second batch of the Indian-made Covaxin novel coronavirus vaccine donated by The Nippon Foundation arrives at Yangon International Airport on January 23, 2022.

A total of 2 million doses of the Indian-made Covaxin vaccine donated by The Nippon Foundation were delivered to the Myanmar Red Cross Society on January 9 and 23, 2022.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:59 | MYANMAR | URL | comment(0)
Japanese, Chinese Field Officers Hold First Online Meeting Organized by Sasakawa Peace Foundation (2) [2022年01月24日(Mon)]
The online meeting was joined by 14 SDF field officers and senior officials of Japan’s Ministry of Defense and 14 PLA officers and officials of the Office for International Military Cooperation, the Central Military Commission of the Chinese Communist Party. With additional personnel from both sides included, some 40 people took part in all.

In their opening remarks, Mr. Itsu Adachi, executive director of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, and Mr. Du Nongy, vice chairman of the China Institute for International Strategic Studies, a think-tank with links to the Chinese military, both looked back on the track record of the exchange program and confirmed the importance of continuing the interactions between officers of the two countries.

They were followed by the heads of both delegations, Mr. Taro Yamato, deputy director-general of the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s Bureau of Defense Policy, and Major General Song Yanchao, deputy chief of the Office for International Military Cooperation of the Chinese Central Military Commission.

They both welcomed the successful holding of the online meeting, which they said will contribute to promoting mutual understanding and building trust between Japanese and Chinese defense officials in the interest of stable relations between the two countries.

On unconventional national security threats, the main theme of the session, both sides briefed each other on the roles that the SDF and PLA play in coping with the novel coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters. They also exchanged views on their respective systems of nurturing human resources and this was followed by a lively Q&A session.

From what I understand, the first online meeting was appreciated by all participants, but I hope they will be able to resume mutual visits in person, once the COVID-19 pandemic is contained.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
Japanese, Chinese Field Officers Hold First Online Meeting Organized by Sasakawa Peace Foundation (1) [2022年01月21日(Fri)]
While the world has grappled with the novel coronavirus pandemic, the relationship between Japan and China has been getting colder in recent months, as if in step with the changing seasons.

Historically, relations between neighboring countries in many parts of the world are often plagued by sensitive issues. Of late, I have not heard of anything like “Friendship from generation to generation,” “A relationship separated only by a narrow strip of water,” or “Remember the person who dug the well,” all indicating friendly ties between neighboring states.

When Sino-Japanese ties were often characterized as “politically cool, but economically hot” some years ago, I told a senior Chinese official: “I can think of no better bilateral relationship than the one that exists between our two countries.” But he replied: “No way. For China, politics is a top priority.”

But believing that we should spare no effort to understand each other, no matter what bilateral relations are like, The Nippon Foundation and its partner organizations have been engaging in a wide variety of exchanges with China for decades.

The foundation started the Japan-China Sasakawa Medical Fellowship in 1986 to help China, which was still a developing country, take care of the health of its people from a humanitarian point of view. For the last 35 years, we have invited some 3,200 medical students and professionals to Japan to study and conduct joint research at universities, hospitals and research institutions all over the country.

Under the Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) program launched in 1987, we have supported about 9,000 Chinese fellows pursuing a master’s or PhD degree, or more than half of the 16,000 Sylff fellows at 69 universities in 44 countries around the world who have received scholarships from the fund.

Under the Education and Research Library Project, our sister organization, the Japan Science Society, donated a total of almost 4 million Japanese books to 75 universities across China.

Since 2001, the Sasakawa Japan-China Friendship Fund of the Sasakawa Peace Foundation has undertaken the Japan-China Field Officer Exchange Program for yearly exchange visits between active field officers of the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) of the Chinese Communist Party.

A total of 152 Japanese and 228 Chinese officers have visited each other’s country under the program. The mutual visits were suspended in 2012 due to the deterioration of bilateral political relations and restarted in 2018.

During these exchanges, field officers toured the host country’s ground, marine, and air force bases; undertook studies on national defense policies; exchanged opinions with defense officials and civilians; visited businesses and agricultural villages; and traveled to historic and cultural sites in efforts to foster mutual understanding and facilitate friendships between Japanese and Chinese officers.

However, the novel coronavirus pandemic forced the two countries to suspend the program in 2020 and 2021.

This prompted Mr. Hu Yiping, a program officer of the Sasakawa Japan-China Friendship Fund, to arrange for the two countries to hold the first online meeting between field officers of the SDF and the PLA on October 29, 2021, with a view to continuing exchanges between them even under the COVID-19 restrictions. This was their first contact since the PLA delegation visited Japan in September 2019.
(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:44 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
My Message for World Leprosy Day 2022 [2022年01月18日(Tue)]
On the eve of this year’s World Leprosy Day, or World Hansen’s Disease Day, on January 30, 2022, I posted a message in my capacity as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination on the WHO website.

My message focuses on why we must not allow leprosy to be forgotten even amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. It also introduces the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign I launched to keep the disease from slipping from view and ensure that the needs of those affected by it are not neglected.

World Leprosy Day, celebrated on the last Sunday of January, is an opportunity to show solidarity with people who have experienced leprosy, raise awareness of the disease, and call for an end to leprosy-related stigma and discrimination.

Allow me to share with you here the full text of my message for World Leprosy Day 2022, which you can also find on the WHO website:

[Text of message]

Message for World Leprosy Day 2022

10 January 2022

From Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination

The social and economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly hard on persons affected by leprosy and their families, many of whom were in a vulnerable position to begin with. Lockdowns implemented by governments have made it harder for them to access treatment and care, deprived them of income-generating opportunities, and exacerbated the deprivations their marginalized communities already faced.

With this in mind, in August 2021 I launched an awareness campaign called “Don’t forget leprosy.” The campaign aims to keep leprosy from slipping from view amid the COVID pandemic and ensure that the needs of those affected by the disease are not neglected.

I have been seeking the support of health ministers of leprosy-endemic countries, conducting awareness campaigns in collaboration with organizations of persons affected by leprosy, NGOs, research institutes and others, reaching out to the media, hosting webinars and organizing my annual Global Appeal to end the stigma and discrimination that persons affected by leprosy face.

Data published by WHO in September 2021 for the calendar year 2020 showed a drop in new cases of 37% on the previous year. This is evidence that, in many countries, measures against leprosy, including case detection and treatment, have been disrupted by the pandemic. Delays in detecting and treating cases can lead to irreversible physical impairment, so it is essential that these services continue. That is why I have been seeking the support of government officials and health professionals for the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign.

Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, is a curable infectious disease caused by the bacillus M. leprae. But the disease is difficult to contract and most people will never develop it even if exposed to leprosy bacilli. Over the years I have met with thousands of leprosy patients and have never developed leprosy. However, what makes leprosy such a challenge is the discrimination that accompanies it−discrimination that has been recognized as a human rights issue by the United Nations.

This discrimination has existed throughout the world from Old Testament times up until the present day, regardless of race or country. For many persons affected by leprosy, the discrimination doesn’t end once they are cured, and that tells me that society has a disease. I am convinced that if we can solve the issue of discrimination in leprosy, this can become a model for solving all the human rights problems in the world.

Central to finding solutions to these challenges will be persons affected by leprosy themselves. In order to effectively carry out case-finding activities disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, it is necessary for them to get involved and make use of their experience and knowledge. It is also important that they are active on social media and speak out against discrimination.

We are the only creatures on Earth that have been given the ability to reason. Let us use our reason to confront the stigma that persons affected by leprosy face, cure society of the disease of discrimination and stop repeating the mistakes of the past.


On the foundation’s website, I posted another version of my message to the members of the leprosy community and healthcare professionals for World Leprosy Day.

The text and the video can be seen here:

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 13:59 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
Almost 300 Sylff Fellows Receive COVID-19 Relief to Continue Studies, Start New Careers (2) [2022年01月13日(Thu)]
In his letter dated July 5, 2021, Mr. Seth Owusu-Mante, a 2019 fellow at the Fletcher School of Tufts University in Massachusetts, the United States, expressed his “sincere appreciation” for the Sylff COVID-19 Relief award, which enabled him to start his PhD course at The Fletcher School in Fall 2021.

“Thank you for supporting my journey towards pursuing a career in teaching, energy policy consultancy, and evidence-based research that informs policies consistent with the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” he said, adding: “Not only will I remain an active member of the Sylff community but in the future, I am confident about reciprocating the benefits through mentoring and financial gifts in support of younger fellows.”

Ms. Gabriele Slizyte, a 2019 fellow at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (CNSMDP) of France, wrote in her July 24 letter: “Since the outbreak of the pandemic, I am feeling your support which inspires me each day to move forwards and to seek new academic heights.” “With the help of the COVID-19 Relief for Sylff Fellows 2021, I will be able to cover my living expenses in France and hopefully pay a visit to my family which I have not seen since last year.”

“As my country starts reopening, I cannot wait to renew my professional activities and to present my latest research in various conferences in France,” she wrote.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your philanthropic activities which bring so much optimism into this world,” she said, adding: “I am proud to be a Sylff’s fellow and I am looking forward to support and to mentor the younger fellows in the future.”

We are committed to helping fellows pursue their goals during these difficult times. I am particularly happy that many of the grant recipients expressed their willingness to be active in the Sylff Association and mentor young fellows. I sincerely hope that the relief funds have made a real difference in helping the fellows either continue their studies and research or transition smoothly to the labor market.

Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
Almost 300 Sylff Fellows Receive COVID-19 Relief to Continue Studies, Start New Careers (1) [2022年01月12日(Wed)]
The novel coronavirus pandemic has directly impacted people’s lives everywhere in a way the world has never seen before. Fellows studying at 69 universities around the globe under The Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund (Sylff) are no exception. With COVID-19 presenting challenges to their studies and daily lives, some of them were almost forced to give up working toward a master’s or doctoral degree.

In line with a proposal advanced by Ms. Mari Suzuki, executive director of the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, our partner organization that administers the fellowship program, the Sylff Association has offered “COVID-19 Relief for Sylff Fellows 2021” to support current and recently graduated fellows facing financial difficulties in earning a degree or starting a career due to the pandemic.

In response, a total of 287 fellows at 55 universities successfully applied for the award−a lump sum to cover living expenses for about 3.5 months in the country where they are based, separate from the annual grant they receive as fellows. In total, the foundation paid out $1.2 million in COVID relief to the fellows.

The Nippon Foundation launched the Sylff scholarship program in 1987 to nurture dedicated young leaders who could boldly take on global challenges and devise workable solutions. In the 34 years since, more than 16,000 people at 69 universities in 44 countries have received fellowships from the fund.

I serve as chairman of the Sylff Association, which comprises all current and graduated fellows, the 69 Sylff institutions, The Nippon Foundation and the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research. It is designed to support the fellows’ academic advancement and encourage networking among the graduates−something that makes Sylff stand out from other fellowship programs.

I have been delighted to receive many letters of thanks from the fellows who took advantage of the relief funds. Here, I would like to share with you excerpts from the three of them.

Ms. Le Huhyen Nhung Nguyen, a 2018-2019 fellow at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) in Oita Prefecture in western Japan, wrote in her letter dated June 23, 2021: “I am deeply moved by the COVID-19 Relief in 2021. I humbly receive and am sincerely thankful for this timely support from Sylff Association.” When she visits Tokyo in the future, she said, she would like to thank me and the secretariat in person.

She recently completed a self-sponsored process of returning to Vietnam after much difficulty due to the COVID-19 travel constraints. In her home country, Ms. Nguyen said, she continued her research work remotely and finished her submission to the Routledge/Taylor and Francis Group publisher on schedule.

“This is my first time participating in a book project and I received great support from family, editors, colleagues and especially from Sylff Association,” she said, adding: “I strive to mentor and financially support younger fellows at my best capacity.”

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:45 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation, Osaka University Announce Conceptual Design for Infectious Disease Research Center [2022年01月06日(Thu)]
Happy New Year!
All of us at The Nippon Foundation wish you a healthy, safe and happy 2022.

Mr. Tadao Ando’s conceptual design announced at a press conference on December 16, 2021, for the Center for Infectious Disease Education and Research to be built at Osaka University with the support of The Nippon Foundation. (Photo: Osaka University)

The Nippon Foundation and Osaka University have announced a conceptual design by world-renowned architect Mr. Tadao Ando for a building that will house the university’s Center for Infectious Disease Education and Research.

I made the announcement at a press conference in Osaka, western Japan, on December 16, 2021, jointly with Mr. Ando and the university’s president, Dr. Shojiro Nishio.

Mr. Ando, the 1995 laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, which is often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel,” said that the building features an elliptical shape to evoke an image of “Spaceship Earth” to incorporate a sense of bringing together top researchers from around the world in a collaborative endeavor.

He said that he considered the project to be a very important undertaking for Japan and the world, adding: “Infectious diseases pose a grave threat to all of humanity, and need to be addressed by people around the world working together.”

Construction of the 45-meter-tall, nine-story structure with a total floor area of about 16,000 square meters is scheduled to start in September 2023 and be completed in February 2025.

The cost, estimated at 8 billion yen (about $69 million), will be financed out of the 23 billion yen (about $199 million) the foundation has pledged to the university over 10 years to support its infectious disease research project to prepare for future pandemics.

President Nishio pinned his hopes on the building, calling it “a new landmark, not only for Osaka University but also for all of Japan.”

“As a multidisciplinary facility where researchers from various fields conduct research under one roof, during normal times as well as emergencies, the building will create an open platform for a variety of professionals from around the world,” he said, adding: “In this way, we will be better prepared for pandemics that may emerge in the future.”

I noted that The Nippon Foundation has been deeply involved in fighting infectious diseases through more than 40 years of work to eliminate leprosy.

To help the nation combat COVID-19, the foundation has undertaken various initiatives. These include a 3.7 billion yen (about $32 million) project to build a makeshift facility with 140 beds for patients with mild or no symptoms, 4.98 billion yen (about $43 million) in assistance to 128 emergency medical services hospitals across the country that take care of severely ill and high-risk patients, and providing free and regular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests for essential workers at nursing homes in the metropolitan areas. 

The Osaka University research center will be able to accommodate almost 100 researchers from Japan and overseas and will promote open innovation between research institutions and business entities at home and abroad.

Noting that Mr. Ando’s design of “Spaceship Earth” creates the image of a planet Earth where all of humanity coexists, I said that I was thrilled at the prospect of leading researchers from around the world gathering at Osaka University to work together and make Japan and the world better prepared for future pandemics.

With Osaka University President Dr. Shojiro Nishio (left) and world-renowned architect Mr. Tadao Ando (center) at a press conference on December 16, 2021, as we hold a model of Mr. Ando’s conceptual design for the Center for Infectious Disease Education and Research.

Speaking at a press conference on December 16, 2021, to announce the conceptual design for the Center for Infectious Disease Education and Research.

Mr. Tadao Ando, a world-renowned architect who won the 1995 Pritzker Architecture Prize, often referred to as “architecture’s Nobel.”

President Shojiro Nishio of Osaka University.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:26 | ENHANCING COMMUNITIES | URL | comment(0)