Ambassador will call on countries to strengthen efforts against leprosy in meetings with delegations attending WHA


WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination Yohei Sasakawa arrives in Geneva, Switzerland on May 23 for the 75th World Health Assembly, where he will call for renewed efforts against leprosy that have been disrupted by the impact of the COVID19 pandemic.

At the opening of the assembly on May 22, he was presented in his absence with the WHO DirectorGeneral's Award for Global Health in recognition of his contribution to advancing global health.

In a short video message, Sasakawa expressed his gratitude for the prestigious award and invited delegates to join him on the last mile to end leprosy.

During his stay in Geneva, Sasakawa will be meeting with delegations from 18 countries that are among the WHO's 23 priority countries for leprosy, to encourage their further efforts against the disease and the discrimination it causes.

Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, activities against leprosy in many countries have had to be scaled back. This has led to delays in detection and treatment of new cases, reflected in a 37% year-on-year decrease in new cases globally in 2020. If treatment is delayed, leprosy can cause progressive disability, and there are concerns that the number of patients with disabilities will increase in the future because of the disruption to leprosy services caused by the pandemic.

Since Sasakawa' s appointment as WHO Goodwill Ambassador Leprosy Elimination in 2001, Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa has intensified his work for a world without leprosy and problems associated with the disease.

Leprosy, also known as Hansen's disease, is an infectious disease that mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, around 200,000 cases were newly reported each year. Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy, but left untreated can result in permanent disability.