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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

MESSAGE: Resolution for a New Year

A new year has begun, filled with hope. Last December, at the UN General Assembly, a resolution submitted by the Japanese government on ending discrimination against people affected by leprosy and their families, together with principles and guidelines, was adopted by consensus by 192 countries. I am delighted that we begin 2011 armed with this resolution.

This year also sees the start of the WHO's Enhanced Global Strategy for Further Reducing the Disease Burden due to Leprosy (2011-2015). Great strides have been made to control the disease in recent years and the new strategy builds on this progress. Early detection and treatment with multidrug therapy (MDT) remain the key principles of leprosy control. This requires unwavering political commitment and firm resolve on the part of stakeholders. There must be no let up.

The enhanced strategy focuses not only on the medical aspects of leprosy, but also on the disease's social consequences. It places increased emphasis on the human rights of people affected by leprosy, as well as outlining for them a participatory role in leprosy services. I welcome these developments.

Familiarizing people with the disease and raising awareness of its human rights dimension are extremely important. On 25 January, I was in Beijing for the launch of the sixth Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy. When I initiated the first appeal in 2006, I felt this was one way I could draw attention to the issues. This year's appeal was signed by heads of over 100 of the world's leading universities and focuses on the important role that education plays.

With the set of principles and guidelines adopted as part of the UN resolution, the WHO's new five-year plan, and initiatives such as the Global Appeal, there is potential for progress and change. But in order for these instruments to be effective, they must be understood, implemented and adhered to. That is our mission; I ask for your understanding and support.

- Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador