The Nippon Foundation (TNF) is a Public Interest Corporation (kōeki zaidan hōjin) that started under the name Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation in 1962. Ryoichi Sasakawa established the organization to direct revenue from motorboat racing to Japan’s shipbuilding and shipping industries, which had been devastated by WWII. Soon funds were used to support projects in other areas as well, such as welfare, medicine, sports, and education. Sasakawa’s personal interest in leprosy relief led to involvement in international projects, starting with a new leprosy center in Agra, India, in 1967.
Principal donor to WHO Global Leprosy Programme
Since 1975, TNF has been the principal donor to the WHO Global Leprosy Programme. For five years (1995-1999), TNF provided WHO with US$10 million per year so that multidrug therapy (MDT), the cure for leprosy, could be distributed to all patients worldwide free of charge.
Addressing human rights
TNF has also focused on eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease. An initial approach to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in 2003 led to a groundbreaking UN General Assembly resolution adopted in 2010 on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. TNF subsequently supported five regional symposiums on leprosy and human rights (2012-2015) to raise awareness of the UN resolution and promote the principles and guidelines.
Since 2006, TNF has sponsored an annual Global Appeal event to raise awareness of ongoing discrimination and make new allies who share committment to the human rights of persons affected by leprosy.