Health ministers pledge ongoing commitment to tackling leprosy.
Goodwill Ambassador Sasakawa met with ministers of health from seven countries on the sidelines of the 61st World Health Assembly in Geneva in May for an update on leprosy and leprosy control activities in their countries.
Mr. J. Gomes Temporao expressed his delight that MORHAN was chosen as this year's recipient of the Sasakawa Health Prize. He stated that the government of Brazil and MORHAN have been cooperating with each other on the social rehabilitation of people affected by leprosy, and that President Lula is especially committed to this cause. He also gave assurances that the Brazilian government is doing all it can to achieve the goal of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem.
Mr. G. Pokharel said that health features significantly in plans to transform the nation, now that peace and stability have returned following the recent general election. He said the government will focus on a community approach to primary health care, and that leprosy is one of the important issues to be tackled. With the strengthening of democracy in the country, he said, Nepal looks forward to fulfilling its commitment to leprosy elimination.
Dr. Jean Louis Robinson reported that following the achievement of leprosy elimination, efforts at leprosy control are ongoing and much progress has been made in terms of reducing the proportion of multibacilliary and child cases. He said that complacency would not be tolerated and that the government was committed to the goal of eradicating leprosy altogether. What is important now and for the future, he said, is quality of service. More needs to be done to improve quality, to boost efforts at early detection and completion of cure, and to ensure the social rehabilitation of people affected by the disease.
Dr. P. I. Garrido said that according to Mozambique's own evaluation of the data, it achieved leprosy elimination in December 2007. However, because this was a sensitive issue, it wanted external confirmation. This was duly forthcoming following evaluation by a joint national-WHO-ILEP team over a three-week period in April. The minister said Mozambique was proud to have achieved elimination a year ahead of its goal, but said there was still much work to be done and that the government remained as committed as ever to fighting leprosy.
Dr. V. Makwenge Kaput pointed to the progress the DR Congo has made, while noting there are still some problems at the provincial level. The country as a whole has achieved the elimination goal, and he said he hoped to mark the achievement when the goodwill ambassador next visits the DRC this August.
Dr. S. F. Supari said that while her country has passed the elimination milestone, leprosy still remains a problem in some provinces. In addition, the human rights dimension of the disease also needs to be addressed, she said. A particular issue is the lack of job opportunities for people affected by leprosy, and the government is providing food assistance in certain cases.
Dr. Francisco Duque gave an assurance that the government of the Philippines is committed to sustaining leprosy elimination and to promoting the socioeconomic rehabilitation of people affected by the disease.