About the Initiative

Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative is a strategic alliance that links together the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, Sasakawa Health Foundation, and The Nippon Foundation for the purpose of achieving a leprosy-free world. The Initiative is committed to a public health approach to the disease and collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders in order to address interrelated medical and social issues. As the current WHO Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa, spreads a three-part message worldwide: “Leprosy is curable. Medication is free. Stop discrimination now.”

Vision & mission

The Initiative is aiming for a leprosy-free world. In the words of Yohei Sasakawa, the current WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, a leprosy-free world is “one where patients and those cured of leprosy live free of discrimination, and people around them will be free of the misunderstanding, ignorance, and fear that perpetuate discrimination.” The Initiative pursues this vision through a three-part mission of tackling disease, eliminating discrimination, and preserving history. Strategies include awareness raising, grant support, and providing opportunities for knowledge sharing.

About Hansen’s disease

Leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease, is an infectious disease that mainly affects the skin, peripheral nerves, upper respiratory tract, and eyes. The disease has ancient origins and for millennia people had to cope with it without being able to cure it. Beginning in the 20th century, medications were developed, and today the disease is curable and the medications are free. The beliefs and practices of earlier times are deeply rooted, however, and much work still needs to be done to eliminate discrimination and stigma.


In the decades that the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, Sasakawa Health Foundation, and The Nippon Foundation have been dedicated to tackling the disease and eliminating discrimination, many written materials, photographs, and videos have been generated. Content that is available online is spread over several websites. The resources page provides a set of organized links for easy navigation to this content.


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