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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy
(From left) JCI President Paschal Dike, Roshni, Ramavarai Sah and Hilarion Guia read aloud the text of Global Appeal 2016 in Tokyo on January 26.

MESSAGE: Tapping the Power of Youth

The 11th Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy was launched from Tokyo on January 26 with the endorsement of Junior Chamber International (JCI), the international network of young businesspeople.

Most countries have seen a sharp drop in leprosy in recent decades, but the disease remains a serious concern in remote regions, ethnic minority areas where drug delivery is difficult, urban slums and other so-called hotspots. Meanwhile, people affected by leprosy and their families continue to face discrimination.

It is hugely encouraging, therefore, that an organization such as JCI, which energetically engages in a variety of causes, has turned its attention to leprosy and committed to participating in activities to end the discrimination. JCI President for 2016 Paschal Dike, who is from Nigeria, said he was shocked when he learned about the history of leprosy and the current realities, and said it was only proper for young people to get involved. “We have the potential to promote change and have a big impact on society. When we are aware of the need, we act,” he said.

A symposium followed this year’s launch ceremony, with one of the sessions on health and human rights. In addition to people affected by leprosy, panelists included those representing intellectual disabilities, albinism, HIV/AIDS, and the deafblind. Although each situation is different, discrimination is a universal theme of human society, and overcoming it begins by understanding the suffering and hardship of those affected. “Nothing about us, without us,” quoted one of the panelists. In other words, it is the people affected who know about their lives and the problems they face, and what the solutions are.

It is my hope that, inspired by knowing the tragic history of leprosy, members of JCI, especially those in developing countries, will passionately commit themselves to activities to help end discrimination.

- Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador