Two years have passed since I launched the “Don’t Forget Leprosy / Hansen’s Disease” campaign. Initially, the campaign aimed to spread the message that efforts to eliminate leprosy and related stigma and discrimination must continue even during the pandemic. During this period when meeting in person was not possible, the campaign team at the Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative organized a webinar series and provided emergency support to organizations of persons affected by leprosy.
When possibilities for international travel started returning to pre-pandemic conditions, the Initiative organized three international conferences, which were held in Hyderabad (India); Rome (Italy) and Vatican City; and Bergen (Norway).
With global connections rekindled, the campaign has now moved on to supporting efforts at the national level. In September, I visited Bangladesh and met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Movement is underway to hold the country’s second national leprosy conference in early November. In Brazil, a national conference has been scheduled for late November and President Lula has agreed to attend. Preparations are taking place for a national conference in Ethiopia sometime next year, and India is considering a national conference on elimination of leprosy-related discriminatory laws.
I will be 85 years old next January, but my commitment to the elimination of leprosy remains as strong as ever. I will continue to make every effort to realize a society where no one is left behind and everyone can participate.
WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination