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Global Appeal 2022 Urges World Not to Forget Leprosy Even Amid COVID-19 Pandemic [2022年02月25日(Fri)]
World Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) Day is celebrated on the last Sunday of January. The purpose of this international day is to increase public awareness of leprosy. This year, the date was January 30.

I have been working for more than 40 years to fight leprosy not only as a medical issue but also as a human rights issue because of the associated stigma and discrimination. I have traveled to more than 120 countries to see the situation for myself. But honestly speaking, I have to acknowledge that my voice has not been loud enough to fully get across my message. In some developed countries I visited, I was sometimes asked: “Is there still leprosy in the world?”

But it is an ongoing disease. Over the past decade, some 200,000 new cases of leprosy have been reported annually worldwide. According to the WHO’s “Global leprosy update” for 2020, however, there was a 37% year-on-year decrease in new cases due largely to the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted case-finding activities.

It is very important to reach the many people without knowledge of leprosy and allay their fears by explaining that it’s not hereditary, it’s not divine punishment, and it’s not highly contagious. Wherever I go, I always stress that it is a curable disease, that treatment is available free of charge and that there is no justification for discrimination

Since 2006, I have issued an annual Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy to coincide with World Leprosy Day, supported by influential individuals and organizations around the world. During the coronavirus pandemic, this call to eliminate stigma and discrimination is more important than ever.

This year, Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative (SLI) invited 37 philanthropic foundations from 15 countries to join the 17th annual appeal, which calls for an end to marginalization of persons who have experienced leprosy and the realization of a just and equitable society that respects the human dignity and fundamental freedoms of all its members.

SLI is a strategic alliance that links together the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, the Sasakawa Health Foundation, and The Nippon Foundation for achieving a leprosy-free world. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, for the second year in a row all Global Appeal-related activities took place online.

Global Appeal 2022 states: “Even today, persons affected by leprosy and their families continue to face social rejection in various parts of the world, and this has been made harder to bear by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”

It concludes: “In the spirit of philanthropy, we call for a society in which everyone can live a dignified life enjoying all their basic rights.”

In my video message to the virtual launch ceremony, I said: “Many issues have been sidelined because of the COVID-19 pandemic, among them the challenges posed by leprosy,” adding that despite the current difficulties, “we must not allow any facet of this disease to be neglected. This includes its human rights dimension: the stigma and discrimination that continue even after complete cure.”

I look forward to working together with all those foundations and others in a spirit of philanthropy for a world free of leprosy and associated discrimination even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The text of the Global Appeal 2022 follows:


Global Appeal 2022

In recent times, we have seen how fear of disease has changed people’s behavior, creating divisions in society and widening inequalities.

Leprosy, or Hansen’s disease, has had this effect.

It is one of the world’s oldest recorded infectious diseases.

In the past, people with leprosy were ostracized out of fear of infection.
It was seen by some as a divine punishment or a curse.

Leprosy is now curable, but myths and misconceptions remain.

Even today, persons affected by leprosy and their families continue to face social rejection in various parts of the world, and this has been made harder to bear by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

As foundations, we are committed to contributing to the public good.
Addressing social injustice and building a better world is at the heart of what we do.

Discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their families is an issue of human rights.

No one should be stigmatized on the basis of a disease.

In the spirit of philanthropy, we call for a society in which everyone can live a dignified life enjoying all their basic rights.


For further details, please visit the Global Appeal 2022 official website.

The text and video of my message to the Global Appeal 2022 virtual launch ceremony can be seen here.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:15 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
Talking with Health Workers, Young People About Fighting Leprosy Amid the Pandemic (2) [2022年02月21日(Mon)]
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I engage youth from Africa, Asia, and Latin America in an online discussion dubbed “Raising Awareness about Leprosy―Role of Youth” organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative (SLI) on January 25, 2022, in the run-up to World Leprosy Day.


On January 25, I participated in a webinar organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative (SLI) in the run-up to World Leprosy Day on January 30. I engaged in an online discussion with young people from Africa, Asia, and Latin America on “Raising Awareness about Leprosy―Role of Youth”.

The session followed three preparatory regional youth forums held in December 2021 and January 2022 in anticipation of a Global Youth Forum on the theme “Don’t Forget Leprosy” organized by SLI slated for March 2022.

Dr. Michael Chen from HANDA Rehabilitation and Welfare Association of China, told participants how the first Asia Youth Forum brought together young people in a virtual meeting to discuss the reduction of stigma and discrimination faced by people affected by leprosy.

He said participants from six Asian countries−Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal−took part in discussions that focused on the need to involve the younger generation in the pursuit of a world free of stigma and discrimination.

“We need to cultivate the potential of young people, provide sufficient funding to young people, and a supportive platform for young people to learn, grow, communicate and solve problems,” Dr. Chen said.

Mr. Marcos Costa from MORHAN (Movement for the Reintegration of People Affected by Hansen's Disease) of Brazil, spoke of the first Latin American and Caribbean virtual meeting in which young people affected by leprosy, their family members and supporters took part.

The meeting aimed to get young people and their families to join a dialogue on the challenges those affected by the disease face and to explore policy solutions.

“In Brazil, 45 percent of new leprosy cases were not diagnosed in 2020 because of COVID-19. The pandemic has compounded challenges facing young people as many of them are unemployed due to the stigma attached to people affected by leprosy,” he said.

Mr. Tadesse Tesfaye from ENAPAL (Ethiopian National Association of Persons Affected by Leprosy) gave an account of the discussions that took place during the first-ever Africa Youth Forum in which young people from nine countries, including Kenya, Nigeria and Mozambique, took part.

He said the forum explored “how stigma and discrimination manifest upon persons affected by leprosy and their families and the need to build national, regional and international alliances to address social and medical challenges related to the disease.”

For my part, I told the young participants that they had the means to change perceptions about leprosy by dispelling myths rooted during the many centuries that leprosy was incurable, noting: “You are educated and know how to use social media to benefit leprosy-affected communities.”

“We need collective efforts to address the disease itself and, at the same time, the rampant stigma associated with leprosy. Today, the second generation of those affected by leprosy still find difficulties getting a job because of the stigma,” I said.

“The history of the world is changed by young people. The spirit of young people is essential in the fight against leprosy. Speak out and let the world understand leprosy better. Use online tools at your disposal to tell the world not to forget leprosy.”

I believe youth participation will usher in a new and much-awaited era in global and grassroots efforts to fully tackle leprosy as a medical, public health, and human rights issue, paving the way toward a leprosy-free world.

I promised the participants that I will convey what I learned from them to presidents and prime ministers as well as senior officials of WHO and the U.N. Human Rights Council when next I have the opportunity to interact with them.

(End)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
Talking with Health Workers, Young People About Fighting Leprosy Amid the Pandemic (1) [2022年02月18日(Fri)]
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I participate in a webinar titled “Raising Awareness about Leprosy−Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level” organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative (SLI) on January 20, 2022. It was joined by health care workers from India and Nepal.


Days before World Leprosy (Hansen’s disease) Day on January 30, I participated in two online sessions with healthcare workers and young people from Asia, Africa and Latin America to discuss fighting the disease amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

As chairman of The Nippon Foundation and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, I first joined a January 20 webinar “Raising Awareness about Leprosy−Role of Health Professionals at the Grassroots Level” organized by the Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative (SLI).

This was the fourth webinar in the series under the "Don't forget leprosy" campaign launched in August 2021 by the SLI, 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 the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease.

Health workers and officials from India and Nepal discussed the role of healthcare professionals in combating leprosy and the successes and challenges faced in tackling the disease during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Ms. Anju Sharma, an ASHA (Accredited Social Health Activist) from India, told the session: “Screening for leprosy during the pandemic is much more difficult. As COVID-19 cases increase, so do my responsibilities because I have to strictly follow COVID-19 protocols, and this takes a lot of time.”

“Due to the pandemic, people are hesitant about getting screened,” she continued, but added: “I reassure them that protocols will be observed and remind them that failure to detect and treat leprosy can lead to disability.”

Dr. Anil Kumar, deputy director-general (Leprosy) in India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, spoke about good practices in combatting leprosy and said that a leprosy-free India was not very far off.

Although the COVID-19 pandemic had led to a marked decline in screening and detecting cases, he said, some critical interventions had taken place and leprosy-related services continued at the grassroots level.

Dr. Rabindra Baskota, Leprosy Control and Disability Management Section director in Nepal’s Ministry of Health and Population, said that despite the challenges they faced, health workers continued to detect new cases, raise awareness and treat patients.

But he added that it was necessary to train community health workers to detect new cases and manage leprosy reactions as older and more experienced health workers retire.

Mr. Birodh Khatiwada, Nepal’s Minister of Health and Population, contributed a video message in which he said that in spite of the pandemic, Nepal’s leprosy program, including the supply of medicine, had not been disrupted.

He said Nepal has already prepared the National Leprosy Roadmap 2021-2030, National Leprosy Strategy 2021-2025, in line with WHO’s Global Leprosy Strategy, the Neglected Tropical Diseases Roadmap and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

I told the participants that I was deeply impressed by the devoted efforts of healthcare workers in the frontlines, going house to house to detect cases despite the pandemic, because early diagnosis is the key to preventing disability and ensuring a complete cure.

When asked about ways that healthcare workers can be supported at the grassroots level, I suggested we improve the training of young healthcare workers by putting more emphasis on the human rights issues that persons affected by leprosy continue to face. The Sasakawa Health Foundation is willing to provide easy-to-follow pamphlets on this topic for distribution to ASHAs and other health workers.

I told the webinar that a leprosy-free world will be one in which those who once had the disease are able to live free of discrimination while the people around them no longer harbor the misunderstanding, ignorance and fear that perpetuate discrimination.

In making such a world possible, frontline health workers such as those from India and Nepal have an important role to play.

(To be continued)
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:29 | LEPROSY | URL | comment(0)
2 Japanese Consortia Successfully Demonstrate the World’s First Unmanned Ship Navigation Systems Supported by The Nippon Foundation (2) [2022年02月14日(Mon)]
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The SOLEIL ferry during a fully autonomous navigation systems demonstration.


On January 17, the consortium consisting of Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., a part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Group, and Shin Nihonkai Ferry Co. successfully conducted a demonstration of the world’s first fully autonomous navigation system on a large, high-speed car ferry.

Under the Smart Coastal Ferry project, the 222-meter-long SOLEIL ferry navigated a 240-kilometer route from Shinmoji in Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture in western Japan, to Iyonada, Ehime Prefecture, which took approximately 7 hours at a maximum speed of 26 knots (50 kilometers) per hour.

The vessel was equipped with a high-precision sensor image analysis system featuring infrared cameras that can detect other ships and obstacles even in darkness, a “SUPER BRIDGE-X” automated ship navigation system that includes an automated avoidance function, and an advanced automated port berthing/unberthing operation system that can perform turning and reversing movements that are even difficult for manned vessels.

One of the biggest challenges for the fully automated vessel is fault prediction, and enhanced engine monitoring technologies that monitor motor conditions were developed and tested as well. The project is also developing various other technologies essential to the promotion of fully autonomous navigation, including platforms for advanced data security to protect the navigation data used for onshore monitoring and support.

The newly built SOLEIL began navigating with an onboard crew on July 1, 2021, compiling data for the development of a fully crewless ship navigation system.

Mitsubishi Shipbuilding, which has experience in developing navigation support systems that realize automation and crew labor savings, was responsible for the integration of the entire system, and Shin Nihonkai Ferry was in charge of setting the vessel’s system requirements and conducting the demonstration.

Mr. Mitsuyuki Unno, executive director of The Nippon Foundation, said: “This was the world’s first fully autonomous ship navigation of a large vessel of over 200 meters in length with a maximum running speed of 26 knots, and I hope this will lead to further development toward practical use.”

Currently, Japan’s domestic coastal shipping industry is grappling with an aging population of seafarers, more than half of them aged 50 and older, as well as a declining number of crew members working in the industry.

Under the circumstances, autonomous ships are expected to go a long way in reducing workloads and trimming operating costs. Besides, crewless navigation can also contribute to safety by reducing human errors, which account for about 80% of marine accidents.

There are still many issues to be resolved. I sincerely hope that the three other consortia participating in the “MEGURI 2040” project will join these two groups in successfully demonstrating their unmanned navigation systems to open the way for Japan to put crewless vessels into commercial service by 2025.

(End)


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Automated berthing/unberthing system monitor (left) and navigation monitor (right) aboard the SOLEIL ferry.


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Infrared cameras that detect other vessels and obstacle even in darkness.


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From left: Mr. Naoki Ueda, executive vice president of Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., Mr. Mitsuyuki Unno, executive director of The Nippon Foundation, and Mr. Masami Sasaki, executive director of Shin Nihonkai Ferry Co.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:00 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
2 Japanese Consortia Successfully Demonstrate the World’s First Unmanned Ship Navigation Systems Supported by The Nippon Foundation (1) [2022年02月10日(Thu)]
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The tourist boat “Sea Friend”, which took part in a successful demonstration of the world’s first autonomous navigation system on January 11, 2022, under the “MEGURI 2040” project supported by The Nippon Foundation.  


Two Japanese consortia, one led by Marubeni Corp. and the other by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., have successfully demonstrated fully autonomous navigation systems on a tourist boat and a large car ferry, respectively, for the first time in the world.

They are the first two groups to demonstrate the technologies among the five consortia participating in the Joint Technological Development Program for the Demonstration of Unmanned Ship, dubbed “MEGURI 2040,” sponsored by The Nippon Foundation.

The project envisions putting unmanned ships into commercial service in 2025 and making half of Japan’s domestic coastal ships crewless by 2040. All five groups are conducting demonstrations of their crewless navigation technologies between January and March 2022.

Under the Marubeni-led consortium which also includes Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding Co., Tryangle Inc. and the City of Yokosuka, it took about 10 minutes for the 19-ton tourist boat “Sea Friend” to autonomously navigate a 1.7-kilometer route from Shin-Mikasa Pier to Sarushima Island in Yokosuka, west of Tokyo, on January 11.

This was the world’s first successful demonstration of crewless navigation on a small tourist boat, according to the foundation and consortium. The autonomous operation was conducted with the boat’s crew onboard to ensure safety while complying with laws and regulations.

The tourist boat is equipped with various sensors including three cameras that use image analysis to detect other ships, a global navigation satellite system, and an automatic identification system. The system that uses sensor data to detect other ships and obstacles processes that information and sends it to the autonomous navigation system, which automatically navigates around the obstacles.

The crewless system also handles docking and departure, a challenging part of navigation even for manned crews, with automated throttle levers on the bridge making repeated, incremental movements.

There are currently approximately 2,000 tourist boats operating in Japan, and these boats are also used by local residents as a means of transportation to and from offshore islands.

According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism’s Maritime Bureau, the number of crew members operating these vessels declined by 30 percent over the past 20 years to roughly 7,000, resulting in crew shortages and increased workload per crew member.

The application of crewless navigation technologies is expected to allow these small boats to operate across the nation and alleviate Japan’s shortage of seafarers, more than half of whom are over the age of 50.

Demonstration of the autonomous navigation system “is actually just a starting point,” said Mr. Mitsuyuki Unno, executive director of The Nippon Foundation, adding: “Going forward, we are aiming to put unmanned ships into commercial service by 2025, and by using this globally trailblazing technology, we hope to play a leading role in creating international rules” governing crewless shipping in international waters.

(To be continued)

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From left, Mr. Kosuke Takechi, chief operating officer, Aerospace & Ship Division, Marubeni Corp.; Mr. Mitsuyuki Unno, executive director of The Nippon Foundation; Mr. Takahiro Suzuki, representative director of Tryangle Inc; Mr. Isamu Funatsu, president and CEO of Mitsui E&S Shipbuilding Co.; and Mr. Hiroyuki Yamaguchi, general manager of the Economic Department, City of Yokosuka.


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Automated throttle levers on the bridge of the tourist boat “Sea Friend” make repeated, incremental movements.


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The “MEGURI 2040” logotype


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The boat is equipped with various sensors including these three cameras that use image analysis to detect other ships and obstacles.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 10:44 | OCEAN | URL | comment(0)
The Nippon Foundation Calls for Donations to Support Tonga, Contributes 100 Million Yen [2022年02月07日(Mon)]
Within days of the massive volcanic eruption and tsunami that struck the South Pacific island state of Tonga recently, The Nippon Foundation established a special emergency fund to collect funds to support its recovery.

The foundation is contributing 100 million yen (about $869,000) to the fund called the Tonga Emergency Relief Fund. I am also pleased to announce that Ms. Kanae Minato, a popular Japanese writer of crime fiction and thrillers, has donated 10 million yen (about $86,900) to launch the fund. She worked as a volunteer in Tonga under the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers program for about two years from late 1996.

The eruption of the underwater Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha'apai volcano on January 15 was likely the biggest volcanic event recorded since Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, experts said.

Tongan Prime Minster Siaosi Sovaleni has said "an unprecedented disaster hit Tonga," with a volcanic mushroom plume extended to cover all of the country's roughly 170 islands−of which 36 are inhabited−impacting the entire population of more than 100,000 people.

Ms. Minato said: “I would like to express my sympathies to the people of Tonga. I have received love and kindness from many people in Tonga, first during my time with the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers and over the years since then.”

“I consider this my turn to give something back, and am pleased to be able to help The Nippon Foundation establish this fund. I sincerely hope that the people of Tonga will be able to return to their daily lives as quickly as possible and smile once again,” she added.

Tonga’s royal family and Japan’s imperial family have historically had a long and close relationship. My late father, Ryoichi Sasakawa, served as Tonga’s honorary consul in Tokyo.

Following the Great East Japan Earthquake that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, Japan received 11,534,778 yen (about $100,000) of assistance from the Tonga Red Cross Society and 200,000 paʻanga (about $78,000) from the Tongan government and citizens, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

We hope that many people will contribute to the Tonga relief fund. With administrative and other indirect costs being borne by us, all donations in their entirety will be used to support Tonga’s recovery from the volcanic eruption and tsunami.

Since the foundation started the Tonga relief campaign on January 19, a total of 19,598 individuals or organizations have donated 72,777,002 yen (about $608,000) to the fund as of February 4. I would like to thank all the donors for their generosity. We have tentatively set the deadline for donations as July 31, 2022.

Here is how you can donate via bank transfer or credit card:

Fund nameTonga Emergency Relief Fund
Period for donationsJanuary 19 to July 31, 2022 (tentative)
Donation methodsCredit card and other online donations or bank transfer
For details, please scan the QR code below or visit here (external link).

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Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 14:23 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)