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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: Uniting to Combat NTDs

Washington meeting explores synergies across neglected tropical diseases.

Following the launch of the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases in January 2012, a conference of donors, endemic country governments, NGOs and other partners was held in Washington in November to look at ways to translate the London Declaration into action.

The London Declaration is a commitment to work to control or eliminate 10 neglected tropical disease (NTDs), including leprosy, by 2020 in line with targets set by the WHO.

During the Washington conference, a side meeting on leprosy was organized by the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP). Attended by representatives of organizations working in leprosy as well as those working in other NTDs, the meeting explored cross-cutting issues among NTDS and ways of collaborating on common areas of work.

NARSAPPA HONORED

Vagavathali Narsappa, the chairman of National Forum India, has been selected to receive a National Award for the Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, 2012. The awards are administered by the Department of Disability Affairs of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. Narsappa was chosen in the category of Best Individual Working for the Cause of Persons with Disabilities. The award was to be conferred by the president of India on December 3. The National Forum India is a networking organization of persons affected by leprosy.

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DR. CHAN IN TOKYO

Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa met with Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO director-general, during her visit to Tokyo for the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in October. Sasakawa thanked her for the WHO's ongoing drive against leprosy and its support for efforts to address the disease's human rights dimension.



FROM THE EDITORS: Uniting to Combat NTDs

REMEMBERING KAZUMI SOGANO

This issue devotes several pages to the topic of leprosy history and heritage, so it is fitting to mark the passing of man whose signature is attached to a document of historic significance. Kazumi Sogano, who died in November at the age of 85, signed a basic accord with the Japanese government on July 23, 2001, under which the state agreed to compensate people affected by leprosy for their forcible segregation under the Leprosy Prevention Law. Sogano signed as the representative of plaintiffs who had sued the state for redress in Kumamoto District Court and two other courts.

When the Leprosy Prevention Law was repealed in 1996, Sogano was not initially inclined to pursue compensation. He was prepared to accept the law's abolition and a guarantee that residents could remain in the sanatoriums that had become their homes. He also felt that, had sanatoriums not existed, his family would not have survived taking care of him for 50 years. But when he came to learn that the government did not acknowledge the outrageousness of its past policies, including forced sterilization, his attitude changed and he assumed a lead role in the fight for justice.

After Kumamoto District Court issued a landmark ruling on May 11, 2001, ordering the state to pay compensation to 127 plaintiffs, it was Sogano who led a sit-down protest in front of the prime minister's residence, calling on the government not to appeal the ruling to a higher court. He was one of a number of plaintiffs who met then-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, shortly before Koizumi announced on May 23 that the government would not appeal. As Sogano told a news conference at the time, "To appeal against people as old as us would be the same as killing us."

Sogano developed symptoms of leprosy at the age of 18. It was near the end of World War II and he was training to be a kamikaze pilot. Many of his fellow airmen went to their deaths, but Sogano's diagnosis saved him. In 1947, he was sent to Oshima Seishoen sanatorium, where he would live for the rest of his life.