At the age of 80, Yohei Sasakawa continues to travel around the world to promote solutions for some of the challenges facing humanity, such as Hansen's Disease or leprosy, wars and disabilities, factors of stigma and exclusion.
On Jun. 27, Faustino Pinto was in Geneva, Switzerland, where he spoke to people at the United Nations about the fight against Hansen's Disease and the stigma surrounding it, at a meeting during the 41st session of the Human Rights Council.
“The ambulance team refused to take my sick friend to the hospital because he had had Hanseniasis years before," said Yohei Sasakawa, president of the Nippon Foundation, at one of the meetings held during his Jul. 1-10 visit to Brazil.
Yohei Sasakawa has dedicated half of his 80 years of life to combating the "disease of silence" and is still fighting the battle, as president of the Nippon Foundation and World Health Organisation (WHO) goodwill ambassador for elimination of leprosy, formally known as Hansen's Disease.
When cases of Hansen's disease, better known as leprosy, increase in Brazil, it is not due to a lack of medical assistance but to the growing efficacy of the health system in detecting infections, contrary to the situation in other countries.
It’s a good day for Dexter, a 25-year-old fisherman from Pohnpei in the Federated States of Micronesia. He’s just been told that he is cured of leprosy.
In Jack Niedenthal’s office in Majuro, there is an ominous reminder of the dark history of the Marshall Islands—once the site for dozens of nuclear tests conducted by the United States between 1946 and 1962. But it also provides a strong message about the future of island nation.
It’s a Friday morning and Dr. Ken Jetton, the only doctor who treats leprosy in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands, is seeing a patient recently cured of the disease.
Mayleen Ekiek has been working with the Department of Health in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) for 12 years now. She is the head of the National Leprosy Programme in the Pacific island nation, which still remains one of three, along with the Marshall Islands and Kiribati, that is yet to eliminate leprosy.
Meretha Pierson has been a nurse for the past seven years, working in the government-run leprosy clinic in Majuro, the capital of the Marshall Islands. Her patients come in all ages, from different economic backgrounds and different professions. But, aside from their diagnosis, they all have something else in common: everyone wants to keep their illness a secret.
“More than 50 countries in the world have discriminatory laws against people affected by Hansen's disease. There is also a lot of discrimination in the public administration…and in society," Alice Cruz, U.N. Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, said in this interview with IPS (in Spanish, with English subtitles).