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WHO Goodwill Ambassador — “I Have Seen For Myself How Leprosy Has Marginalized Individuals”

FYohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, in a statement noted that it is easy to overlook other diseases, including leprosy amid the COVID-19 dominated headlines.

He said leprosy demands urgent attention as there “are still some 200,000 new cases diagnosed worldwide each year. Millions of people are living with some form of disability as a result of leprosy.” 

 Sasakawa noted that if the disease goes untreated, it could not only be debilitating but could also lead to social exclusion.

“Persons affected by leprosy continue to face discrimination, reinforced in some countries by outdated laws that make leprosy grounds for divorce, prevent people with the disease from participating in public life or place other restrictions on their activities,” said Sasakawa.

He further said, “I have seen for myself how leprosy has marginalized individuals. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to the social and economic consequences of the disease.”

He emphasized the need for change in mindset towards the disease and the importance of removing barriers to those seeking medical care.

“We must eliminate the obstacles that prevent affected individuals and their families from living in dignity and enjoying all their basic human rights as full members of society,” he posited.

The WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination believes that the organization’s strategy in tackling the disease is on the right path.

“I am confident we are moving in the right direction: the WHO’s Global Leprosy Strategy for 2021-2030 will generate renewed momentum; organizations of persons affected by leprosy are becoming more influential, and their calls for change more powerful; and the UN Special Rapporteur on leprosy is working tirelessly to see that principles and guidelines on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members are fully implemented,” he opined.

He stated that “we need to realize an inclusive society in which everyone has access to quality treatment and services, and a diagnosis of leprosy no longer comes with a possibility of devastating physical, social, economic or psychological consequences.”

Yvad Billings, Readers Bureau, Contributor

Edited by Jesus Chan

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