On February 26 I had the great honor to be awarded the 2018 Gandhi Peace Prize at a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in India. The prize was conferred on me by President Ram Nath Kovind in recognition of my contribution to ongoing efforts to eliminate leprosy from India and the world. But I did not accept this award alone. I received it on behalf of all those who have been striving for a world without leprosy and the discrimination it causes.
It was over 40 years ago that I came face to face with leprosy for the first time on a visit to a sanatorium in South Korea with my father. I was shocked to encounter people severely afflicted by the disease who could no longer live as normal human beings, having been abandoned by their families, rejected by society and deprived of their freedom. From that point I decided to follow in my father’s footsteps and commit myself to the fight against leprosy.
In the decades since, much progress has been made against the disease on both the medical and social fronts. Thanks to the introduction of multidrug therapy from the 1980s and a concerted effort led by the WHO to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem, cases numbers have come down dramatically. “Elimination,” defined as a prevalence rate of less than 1 case per 10,000 population, has been achieved globally and in almost every country at the national level.
Meanwhile, leprosy has been recognized as a human rights issue with the adoption in 2010 of a UN General Assembly resolution and accompanying principles and guidelines on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. Follow-up work continues to ensure that every woman, child and man affected by leprosy is able to live in dignity enjoying all his or her human rights.
Nevertheless, we are still some distance from realizing a world in which no one need suffer from leprosy or its associated stigma and discrimination. I feel that the peace prize that I have accepted on behalf of all who strive for this goal is encouragement from Mahatma Gandhi to complete our work.
— Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador
WHO Goodwill Ambassador’s Newsletter No. 93
MESSAGE: Encouragement from Gandhi
INTERVIEW: Reinvigorating India’s leprosy program – Dr.Anil Kumar
INSIGHT: Disability rights in India
AMBASSADOR’S JOURNAL: Delhi, Dadra&Nagar Haveli, Andhra Pradesh
NEWS: Global Appeal 2019, Indian divorce laws
FROM THE EDITOR : RAISE A HAND IF YOU’VE HEARD OF LEPROSY