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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy


As a conference in Geneva on eliminating, controlling and eradicating neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) was coming to an end, a symposium in the Japanese city of Setouchi on preserving the history of leprosy was beginning. While the impetus to eliminate and the impetus to preserve seem diametrically opposed, there is common ground.

NTDs are called that for a reason. They have been overlooked on the health agenda because they affected the world’s poorest populations. Now these diseases are being addressed, the poor and marginalized are being acknowledged, along with their right to health and an improved standard of living.

The impetus behind preserving the history of leprosy is to ensure that those who were isolated and excluded by past policies and social prejudice are similarly acknowledged, and given a place in the collective memory.

In taking aim at NTDs, we should not forget who neglected them and why, and who suffered as a result, so that this may serve as a future reference. This is also what propels the current movement to preserve the history of leprosy—to make society aware of past injustices, and learn from them so that this history is not repeated. Instead of pulling in opposite directions, the instinct to eliminate and to preserve go hand in hand in this instance.