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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

AMBASSADOR’S JOURNAL: Partnering for Progress

The launch of Global Appeal 2015, a visit to the Imperial Palace and visits by key partners make January a busy month for the Goodwill Ambassador in Tokyo.

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Prime Minister Abe (center) headed the list of dignitaries at the launch ceremony.

JAPAN (JANUARY)

This column usually deals with my travels away from Japan. In January, however, my place was in Tokyo for the launch of the tenth Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy. I am very grateful to the International Council of Nurses (ICN) for endorsing this year’s appeal and I look forward to their continued support.

I am also extremely grateful to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for taking time out of his busy schedule to attend, with Mrs. Abe, the ceremony and deliver an unequivocal statement of the government’s commitment to resolving the outstanding issues of leprosy in Japan.

The various events taking place in connection with the Global Appeal are featured elsewhere on these pages; however, I would just like to record the wonderful scenes I witnessed on January 28, when Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko invited people affected by leprosy from several countries to visit them at their private residence. This was a very generous and caring gesture on the part of Their Majesties, who are known for the interest they take in leprosy. It would be impossible for me to overstate the joy and excitement I saw in the expressions of eight people who, at different times in their lives, have found themselves in a very dark place due to leprosy.

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With ICN President Dr. Judith Shamian (left) and First Vice-President Dr. Masako Kanai-Pak

Two of the most important partners in the fight against leprosy today are the Novartis Foundation, whose parent company is responsible for the free provision of multidrug therapy to leprosy patients worldwide through the WHO, and the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (ILEP). I was very pleased to welcome to my office representatives of both these organizations in January.

In my meeting with Dr. Anne Aerts, the president of Novartis Foundation, she briefed me on the foundation’s continuing commitment to leprosy control and support for innovative new strategies to improve early diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the disease. These include pilot projects to treat contacts of new cases with chemoprophylaxis and a mobile-phone based leprosy referral system.

This was a very generous and caring gesture on the part of Their Majesties.

ILEP’s president is Jan van Berkel, the head of Netherlands Leprosy Relief. Accompanied by ILEP’s interim CEO, Marie Staunton, he outlined for me the organization’s strategy going forward. In particular, ILEP is focused on stopping the transmission of leprosy, preventing disability and overcoming the barriers to inclusion of children, women and men affected by leprosy. I appreciate the support that ILEP has offered to help governments achieve the goals of the Bangkok Declaration toward a leprosy-free world, signed in July 2013 by the health ministers of 17 leprosy-endemic countries, as well as its stance on working for the repeal of laws that discriminate on grounds of leprosy.

I look forward to cooperating closely with Novartis and ILEP, together with other partners, as we strive toward our goal of a world without leprosy and the discrimination it causes.