Global Appeal 2017 is launched in New Delhi on January 30, endorsed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which has 171 national parliaments as members.
World Leprosy Day is observed on the last Sunday in January. This year, there were messages from both the Vatican and Pope Francis. In his Sunday Angelus address on January 29, the Pope said of leprosy: “This disease, although in decline, is still among the most feared, and afflicts the poorest and most marginalized. It is important to fight this disease, but also against the discrimination that it engenders.”
The following day, January 30, was Martyr’s Day in India, marking the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi; it is also India’s Anti-Leprosy Day. On this day, the 12th Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy was launched in New Delhi.
This year’s appeal was endorsed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Its president, Mr. Saber Chowdhury, noted that parliaments have the power to effect change by drafting or repealing laws, allocating budgets and implementing policies. Referring to my motorcycle analogy, in which the front wheel represents efforts to eliminate leprosy and the back wheel efforts to end discrimination, he said: “That motorcycle needs a very powerful engine. I hope parliamentarians are going to be that engine.”
There was also a video message from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said that while the goal of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem had been achieved at the national level in 2005, India still has a long way to go, noting that a special leprosy case detection campaign in 2016 had uncovered 32,000 new cases. He also said it had been Gandhi’s dream that people affected by leprosy should live a life of dignity, and thus the prime minister was happy to note the role of the Global Appeal.
For those of us who have spent long years working for a world without leprosy and the discrimination it causes, the commitment of one of the world’s leading faiths, of an organization representing the world’s parliaments, and of the prime minister of India on the occasion of World Leprosy Day represents a tremendous show of support. Building on this momentum, let us take further steps toward our goal.
- Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador