‘Join Me on this Journey’ to Eliminate Leprosy – WHO Ambassador

By Stella Paul
MANILA, Sep 10 2019 – Octogenarian Yohei Sasakawa has travelled to more than 90 countries across the globe; from areas of conflict, to the jungles of Brazil, shaking hands, hugging and washing the feet of Hansen’s disease-affected people. His message is simple: Stop stigmatisation and eliminate the disease.

Sasakawa, who has spent more than 40 years working towards elimination of Hansen’s disease, is the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and chairperson of The Nippon Foundation (TNF). Since 1975, TNF and its sister organisation, the Sasakawa Health Foundation (SHF), have contributed over USD200 million in financial support for the WHO’s Global Leprosy programme. Both foundations support elimination of the disease globally and provide information and awareness about the disease through the Leprosy Today website.

Sasakawa told IPS in an exclusive interview that he does not believe in sitting in “air-conditioned rooms” looking at data and making decisions about the elimination of the disease. “That will not be helpful to people. You must go to the actual site. That is why I travel across the world — even if it’s scorching deserts or the jungles of Brazil or areas that are difficult to reach or even areas that are dangerous.”

Sasakawa, who says that discrimination and stigmatisation against people affected by Hansen’s disease was the original human rights violation, advocated for this to be included in the United Nations human rights agenda.

Yohei Sasakawa, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and chairperson of The Nippon Foundation, has dedicated more than four decades towards eliminating Hansen’s disease and putting an end to the stigmatisation that people affected by the disease face globally. Courtesy: Sasakawa Health Foundation/The Nippon Foundation

In 2010, his efforts bore fruition when the United Nations General Assembly Resolution on elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members and accompanying principle and guidelines was passed.

“If you look around us, there are multiple issues in front of us. When it comes to leprosy, people discriminating against people started in the age of the Old Testament. So it goes back a long time in our past history. So I think leprosy is the origin of human rights violation because of the fact that it started such a long time ago,” the recipient of the 2019 Order of the Rising Sun and 2018 Gandhi Peace Prize winner told IPS.

He said that 60 percent of the more than 210,000 new global leprosy cases for 2017 originated in India, adding that India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a strong commitment to make 2030 the year of zero leprosy in the country.

Sasakawa is currently in Manila, Philippines, to attend the TNF/SHF-sponsored Global Forum of People’s Organisations on Hansen’s Disease, which is being held Sept. 7 to 10. He will also deliver a keynote address at the 20th International Leprosy Congress (ILC), which takes place Sept. 11 to 13.

Through his work Sasakawa has met more than 150 national leaders, including presidents and prime ministers, sharing his message and gaining their support and commitment to eliminate leprosy.

However, he stressed, that his efforts alone would not eliminate the disease and called on the youth to “take action in their own countries” and encouraged them to begin discussions for solutions on social media platforms.

“I would definitely ask young people to join me on this journey.”


The Geneva Centre to organize on 18 September a panel debate on the rights of the child

By Geneva Centre
GENEVA, Sep 10 2019 (IPS-Partners)

(Geneva Centre) – A panel debate will be organized by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue and the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the UN in Geneva on the enhancement of access to justice for children in the UAE and the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

The debate entitled “Enhancing access to justice for children in the United Arab Emirates“ will take place on 18 September from 15:00 to 16:30. It will be held in room XXIII, at the United Nations Office in Geneva, on the margins of the 42nd regular session of the Human Rights Council.

The purpose of the conference will be to raise awareness about the need to protect the rights of children in vulnerable situations and to gain deeper understanding of the root causes and risk factors of child abuse and neglect.

In this connection, the conference will take stock of the progress achieved in the UAE to enhance the legal empowerment of children, and identify areas of improvement in line with the provisions set forth in the CRC and other relevant international legal frameworks. It will include the participation of Safety Ambassadors, designed under the precept of the Wadeema Law, who will present the main objectives of Safety Ambassadors programmes and the means available to protect children from any violations they may be subjected to, and raise their awareness of remedies available to address violations.

The panel debate will be opened by HE Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the UAE to UN in Geneva.

It will be moderated by Dr Umesh Palwankar, Executive Director ad interim of the Geneva Centre.

The conference will benefit from the participation of the following high-level panellists:

      • (1) Ms Fatma Ghulam Murad – Head of Section of the Department of Child and Woman Protection. General Department of Human Rights, Dubai Police;
      • (2) Professor Velina Todorova – Vice-Chairperson and Member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child;
      • (3) Ms Beate Andrees – Chief, Fundamental Principals and Rights at Work Branch, ILO;
      • (4) Mr Phenny Kakama – Child Protection Specialist, UNICEF Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia.

Vaping Fad Boosts Dangerous Nicotine Addiction

By Wan Manan Muda and Jomo Kwame Sundaram
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Sep 10 2019 - Smoking-related diseases are the major causes of premature death worldwide. Every year, six million smoking-related deaths are reported worldwide. If [...] Read more »