A three-day International Leprosy Summit that brought together health ministers and health ministry officials from 17 countries that annually report over 1,000 new cases of leprosy successfully concluded in Bangkok on July 26.
The summit was organized by the WHO's Southeast Asia Regional Office and The Nippon Foundation because of concern that efforts to tackle leprosy appear to be stalling and new case detection rates have remained static in recent years.
At the summit, participants made a commitment to devote further efforts to combat the disease. They recognized the urgent need to focus on the early detection of new cases in pockets of high risk such as urban slums, border regions and ethnic minority areas.
In addition, participants agreed on the goal of reducing the number of new cases with Grade 2 (visible) disability to less than 1 case per million population by 2020 and to create a mechanism in each country to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of anti-leprosy activities. Promoting the active involvement of people affected by leprosy in the fight against the disease was also emphasized.
These and other points were adopted as part of the Bangkok Declaration, but only after delegates had engaged in full and frank debate. That they eventually agreed on a document that reflected their concerns was one of the great achievements of this summit.
Now we must plan how to realize the aims of the Bangkok Declaration without delay. In addition to pledging my own commitment, I said The Nippon Foundation will donate $20 million over the next five years to tackle leprosy.
The leprosy summit was a meeting in which participating countries, the WHO, the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations, organizations of people affected by leprosy and other stakeholders agreed to contribute resources and expertise toward a leprosy-free world. I believe this summit represents a big step in that direction.
- Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador