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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: A Role for Religions in Ending Stigma

Meeting with health minister touches on reach of religious faiths.

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Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa met with Indonesia’s Health Minister Dr. Nafsiah Mboi on January 27 in Jakarta ahead of the launch of Global Appeal 2014 to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy. During their meeting they discussed the leprosy situation in the country and the Ministry of Health’s focus on 13 provinces where the burden of leprosy remains high.

In the course of their wide-ranging conversation the minister emphasized the importance of using religious leaders as a channel to communicate information about leprosy and reduce discrimination, “because they are close to the people.” She cited the role played by church groups in Papua Province in tackling HIV/AIDS. “They have a lot of volunteers and go to remote areas,” Dr. Mboi said.

To raise awareness about leprosy, the health ministry will be launching a National Appeal calling for an end to leprosy-related stigma and discrimination endorsed by representatives of Indonesia’s six official religions — Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism — together with the Ministry of Religious Affairs and faith-based NGOs.

As part of the campaign, it has prepared booklets about leprosy, including information on symptoms and treatment, tailored to each religion. “We chose religious faiths because they have a network from the top to the grassroots,” said the ministry’s Dr. Christina Widaningrum, adding that the “follow-up will be very important.”