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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

MESSAGE: Cross-party Cooperation

The recently established Forum of Parliamentarians to Free India of Leprosy is an all-party group consisting of about 50 MPs. The forum is dedicated to defending the human rights of people affected by leprosy and their families, improving their welfare and living conditions, and enabling them to live in dignity. The MPs are undertaking this work in their constituencies as well as through their activities in India’s Parliament.

In Japan, an organization of Diet members was set up some decades ago to help people affected by leprosy. It has made efforts to improve the living environment and medical services of those living in sanatoriums.

That such a group should also have been formed in India is very encouraging. What is especially significant is that membership cuts across party lines. When people with political influence and the ability to deliver results put aside party differences, things happen. I very much hope this will spur awareness-building activities to promote a proper understanding of leprosy and that the forum will serve as a catalyst to hasten the resolution of various legal, social and economic challenges.

One of the central figures in the forum, former Union Minister for Railways Dinesh Trivedi, promised that this would be a sustained commitment that would continue until people no longer face stigma or forfeit their dignity due to leprosy. “These are our own people — our brothers, our sisters, our mothers, our fathers,” he said.

In Brazil, too, something similar is happening. Led by the Secretariat of Human Rights, 83 MPs formed a group in August to take further measures against leprosy and other Neglected Tropical Diseases and to promote the elimination of discrimination.

I would like to see parliamentarians form groups in many more countries that are still grappling with leprosy. But for such groups to produce concrete results, our job is to keep them well informed and to cooperate with them very closely. In any event, these recent developments in India and Brazil are to be welcomed.

- Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador