WHO Goodwill Ambassador calls for renewed focus on Leprosy through ‘Don’t Forget Leprosy’ campaign

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The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the challenges and brought greater neglect, especially for marginalised/ people affected by Leprosy.

Reinforcing the need to focus and enable communities, Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, said: “The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly hard on people affected by leprosy and their families who were in a vulnerable situation to begin with. Lockdowns and other measures to prevent the spread of the virus have caused many problems at the field level, making access to medical services difficult, causing loss of livelihoods and exacerbating the difficulties that persons affected by leprosy already encounter due to stigma and discrimination. They must not be forgotten.”

Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative launched the “Don’t forget leprosy” campaign in August 2021 to ensure that efforts against leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, are not side-lined amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In the run-up to World Leprosy Day on 30th January, Sasakawa-India Leprosy foundation (S-ILF) along with 32 organizations including NGOs, organisations of persons affected by leprosy, research institutes and government agencies from Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and the United Kingdom took part in an international campaign to promote the message ‘Don’t forget leprosy’.”

Organised by Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative, the campaign includes awareness-raising activities and outreach to Governments, webinars targeting youths and healthcare professionals including paramedics like Nurses and ASHA workers.

In India, Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation (S-ILF) participated along with the Association of People Affected by Leprosy (APAL) and other organisations like Acworth Leprosy Hospital Society for Research, Rehabilitation & Education in Leprosy, Atma Swabhiman, Greater Tenali Leprosy Treatment and Education Scheme Society (GRETNALTES), St Joseph Leprosy Hospital and NLR India Foundation in creating awareness and bringing back focus on leprosy through the campaign initiatives.

Activities for World Leprosy Day by Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative

– The Initiative has launched a special website for the Global Appeal to End

Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy. Inaugurated by WHO Goodwill

Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa in 2006 and released in conjunction with World Leprosy Day, the annual Global Appeal underlines the messages that leprosy is curable, treatment is available free of charge throughout the world, and that social discrimination has no place.

– As side events of this year’s Global Appeal, the Initiative hosted two webinars on raising awareness of leprosy (“The role of health professionals at the grassroots level” and “The role of young people: sharing discussions from three regions”) as well as a photo contest on social media.

A selection of the best photos, which depict the daily lives of persons affected by leprosy and relief activities, will be displayed on the Global Appeal website.

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