One man who was happy to attend the recent International Leprosy Summit was Tanzania's National TB/Leprosy Program Manager Dr. Blasdus F. Njako. It's not often that a leprosy program manager gets much "face time" with his country's health minister, so to be able to spend three days in Bangkok with Minister of Health and Social Welfare Dr. Hussein Ali Hassan Mwinyi was for Dr. Njako a rare privilege.
"It makes my job much easier," he said following the end of the summit. "Normally I come to conferences by myself and report back to the minister after I return home. But having the minister alongside me and having him exposed directly to the problems and challenges in leprosy that were discussed at the meeting makes a real difference. He could ask me questions and I could explain things to him, or seek his views on certain issues."
He admitted it was unusual for him to get direct access to the minister. "In the normal procedure, the program manager only gets as far as the permanent secretary, so this was a fantastic opportunity," he said.
Dr. Njako had praise for the Bangkok Declaration, saying, "It is a very important document. All the challenges are there." As he told his fellow program managers at the conference, "We have been given our marching orders."
For his part, Dr. Njako's boss acknowledged the significance of the three-day gathering. "Ministers have noted the significant contribution of their countries to the global leprosy burden and acknowledged the crucial importance of renewed political commitment in future leprosy control," Dr. Hussein said in the closing address. The summit, he told participants, represented "a crucial milestone in the fight against leprosy in the world."