About WHO Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa
Executive Director, IDEA Nepal
Founded in 1998, IDEA Nepal is a national level organization run by persons affected by leprosy that is dedicated to the principle that individuals whose lives have been challenged by the disease have the right to full and equal participation in society.
I am attempting to use words to give you a picture of the conditions of persons affected by leprosy in Nepal. Not surprisingly, I wish to show both the achievements of the last 10 years and newly emerging challenges.
Nepal is a federal democratic republic that is known for natural beauty and cultural diversity. Our landlocked country has also been called “underdeveloped,” and illiteracy and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy are ongoing issues. Data shows that literacy rates for various population groups have been increasing. Discrimination against persons affected by leprosy, however, is taking new forms rather than diminishing.
In the past, discrimination was overt. Persons affected by leprosy would be isolated to an area far from the community. These days, discrimination is more subtle, but it is just as potent as before. Since the government of Nepal declared the elimination of leprosy, data seems to show a decrease in the number of diagnosed cases. Most of Nepal’s laws give the impression that discrimination has ended as well, but communities continue discriminatory practices regardless of what the laws say.
COVID-19 made everyone think of survival before everything else. For social distancing, education moved to digital platforms. The move to digital solved some problems while creating or worsening others. Despite promises of inclusion, students affected by leprosy, and especially those with leprosy-related disability, generally did not experience an improvement in their situation.
IDEA Nepal advocates for the dignity of persons with lived experience of leprosy. In recent IDEA Nepal advocates for the dignity of persons with lived experience of leprosy. In recent years, the organization has been emphasizing restoration of dignity through economic rehabilitation. As a representative of IDEA Nepal, I believe that economic rehabilitation is the approach that has the most potential to improve the situations of persons affected by leprosy in our country.