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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

GLOBAL APPEAL 2015: Think Leprosy Now

Social media campaign builds awareness of leprosy in Japan and overseas.

Some of the 1,600 contributors to the online campaign

A campaign inviting members of the public to “Think Leprosy Now” (written in Japanese as “Think Now Hansen-byo”) has elicited more than 1,600 video and written messages since it was launched in Japan last December. Authors, actors, politicians, the prime minister’s wife, and sports personalities including the country’s top sumo wrestler are among those who have recorded short messages available for viewing on a special website.*

Matsuko Deluxe, a cross-dressing columnist and TV personality, said: “There is still a lot of discrimination and prejudice against leprosy in society. This is like a sign for me. The disease of leprosy, of course, needs to be eliminated from the world; however, if the prejudice and discrimination against leprosy can also be removed, I feel it is symbolic and could lead to the removal of many other such issues.”

Dorian Sukegawa, a poet and musician, recorded a message before going on stage for a concert. In it, he recalled writing a story about people who had been forced to spend most of their lives in a leprosarium. They were “like real heroes,” he said. “They should have been able to step outside that enclosure. But I believe many things happened and they were trapped inside. They didn’t throw away their lives, though, and instead they tried to live the best they could. I believe we have much to learn from former leprosy patients. They have a lot of inner strength and we should think about the people who have lived through this.”

Kota Ishii, a non fiction writer, said: “What I would like to say to everyone is that leprosy still exists, in Japan and around the world. There is still discrimination against it, too; that’s the kind of disease it is. I think that if everyone learns about leprosy, discrimination against it will decrease. Then the people who have to beg or hide away in leprosy villages can live freely. In that sense, I hope that everyone can learn little by little about leprosy and take action.”

The campaign has also received support from overseas. Among the contributions from abroad are those from Archbishop Desmond Tutu (see below) and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, both of whom are past signatories of the annual Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy.

With the tag line, “To think about leprosy is to think about people,” the “Think Leprosy Now” campaign is set to run until the end of March 2015.