Mr.Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and Chairman ...
The Nippon Foundation, together with the International Chamber of Commerce, will...
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Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest diseases. Although completely curable today...
In order to eliminate discrimination and prejudice, it is important to change th...
Report on Leprosy and Human Rights: New UN Resolution and the Background ・MESSAG...
Today, there are very few people who know about the disease called leprosy, or Hansen's disease.
For centuries, leprosy was believed to be a punishment from God, or atonement for past evil deeds.
Such misperceptions were a cause for discrimination.
There is very little known about the pathogen of leprosy except that it is a chronic infectious disease caused by Mycobacterium Leprae. Leprosy is extremely low in infectivity and 95% of the people are immune to the bacteria. Even if contracted, it will be cured naturally and it is rare for the symptoms to appear.
Early symptoms commonly observed are patches that can appear anywhere on the body. They are pale-colored, red or reddish brown and have no sensation.
If untreated, leprosy causes nerve damage and other complications. Patients lose feeling in their hands and feet and become susceptible to injuries that can result in festering wounds or ulcers. These are secondary infections due to other organisms and are not caused by the leprosy germ. Ultimately parts of the body are disfigured or severed. Because of this, leprosy was feared by people for centuries. In many countries patients were isolated and confined in remote places; and were stripped of their identity and given numbers or fictitious names so that people could no longer identify them with their family members.
Leprosy was very much misunderstood in the past. It was thought to be incurable, God's punishment,
and contagious. Therefore isolation was thought be the best way to avoid infection. However in the 1980's,
multidrug therapy (MDT) was found to be effective and with early diagnosis and
treatment leprosy became curable without leaving any trace of disability or disfigurement.
MDT was developed by the WHO research team in 1981. It is available free of charge anywhere in the world.
From 1985, the prevalence of leprosy has declined as far as 5% of the original 5 million cases to 180,000 cases over the period of 30 years. As of the end of 2010, more than 16 million people have been cured by MDT.
Leprosy elimination is defined by the WHO as reducing the prevalence to less than 1 case per 10,000 population.
This clear numerical target made it possible to cure 16 million people and there is just one more country to go
until every country in the world achieves elimination on the national level.
Although leprosy has been eliminated in all the countries except Brazil,
it is only an achievement of the numerical target and does not mean that leprosy has been eradicated.
Even in countries that have achieved the elimination target of “less than 1 leprosy case per 10,000 population” at the national level, some countries still have high prevalence of leprosy in the rural regions, districts and sub-districts. These are called “hotspots” or “pockets”. Hotspots still remain in many parts of the world, especially in impoverished areas.
Despite the fact that leprosy can be treated and cured, leprosy is still a cause for discrimination. Many patients as well as their family members are discriminated unjustifiably. We must get the facts straight and courageously stand up against all forms of discrimination.
In September 2010, a resolution to end discrimination against people affected by leprosy and their family members and the attached Principles and Guidelines was adopted unanimously at the United Nations Human Rights Council. IDEA (International Association for Integration, Dignity and Economic Advancement) and many other organizations around the world are working to end discrimination against people affected by leprosy.
We captured the reality that confronts the people affected by leprosy all over the world on camera.
People who are isolating themselves from society in fear of discrimination;
people recovered from leprosy who are helping to prevent the spread of the disease…
Each life is different, each life is unique.
March 2014. Hanae, aged 22, set foot in actual sites of leprosy, as a reporter. “I know almost nothing about leprosy” were her initial words. Unequipped with knowledge, she continually experienced surprise, bewilderment and worry while in the field. She continued her coverage repeatedly for two and a half years, coming face to face with people affected by leprosy wit...
When reading the Old Testament, one finds references to leprosy in which people affected by leprosy are called “unclean people” (Levi 13: 45~46). They were not treated as “human beings” and were unconditionally discriminated against throughout the ages and in all countries. In order never to repeat this tragic history, a group of people affected by leprosy visited t...
As WHO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination,
Yohei’s visits continue to touch the hearts of people affected by leprosy around the world.
What he sees is leprosy as is today.