In August 2021, I launched an awareness campaign called “Don’t forget leprosy.” The slogan is meant to be a reminder that persons affected by leprosy and their families continue to experience stigma and discrimination, and measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have made their lives even more difficult. I also want to encourage support for medical professionals who continue to work hard to treat patients under challenging conditions. I hope that everyone worldwide will join this campaign and speak up from wherever they stand to say that leprosy must not be forgotten.
I have sent letters to the health ministers of 56 countries reminding them of World Leprosy Day on Jan. 30 and asking for their cooperation with this campaign. People’s organizations and NGOs from 16 countries have joined a campaign-related grant program that supports awareness-raising activities and surveys of the situations of persons affected by leprosy and their families. This year, the Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy, an annual event that I initiated with the support of The Nippon Foundation in 2006, is thematically linked to the campaign.
The primary reason that I launched the Global Appeal was to broaden the scope of our awareness-raising activities; in other words, to communicate the reality of discrimination to those who were not yet aware of the issue. Over the past 16 years, the Global Appeal has been the catalyst for new relationships with people in a wide variety of fields, including medicine, law, government, and business. This year, we focused on connecting with philanthropic foundations. I continue to believe that together we can end stigma and discrimination.
WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination