At the Global Partners Meeting on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), held in Geneva, Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, has been conferred with the World Health Organisation's gold medal.
Director General, WHO, Dr Margaret Chan awarded the gold medal, which bears the inscription "Health for All," to Sasakawa for his eminent contribution as WHO Goodwill Ambassador since 2001 for leprosy elimination across the globe. Dr Chan expressed her thanks towards the efforts undertaken by Saskawa. In his acceptance speech, the Nippon Foundation Chairman outlined three areas of activities that have proven effective in raising awareness against leprosy, and expressed his determination to continue his work to eliminate both the disease.
‘The WHO has identified 18 neglected tropical diseases it seeks to eradicate, including lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and leprosy.’
Saskawa has been visiting India regularly and meeting people affected by leprosy. He had visited Chhattisgarh and Odisha in February, 2017 and met the government officials and people affected by and took stock of the situation personally. The WHO has identified 18 neglected tropical diseases it seeks to eradicate, including lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, and leprosy.
Global Partners' Meeting brought together approximately 400 people working to defeat these diseases, who pledged further support to accelerate the WHO's work toward achieving roadmap targets set for 2020, as well as the elimination of many diseases by 2030. Former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Co-Chair Bill Gates both addressed the meeting and former US President Jimmy Carter sent a video message.
Expressing the desire to continue his activities, Sasakawa commented, "I would like to share the honor and joy of having been awarded this medal today with everyone I have worked with." He also noted, "We still have a little farther to go," and therefore, Sasakawa outlined three things that he considers important in addressing leprosy- First, directly approaching political leaders of endemic countries and seeking their commitment, which adds momentum to efforts on the ground; Second, promoting a correct understanding among the general public, through the local press, as well as popular culture, because street theatre, music, and entertainment can be more effective; and third, forming sustainable initiatives bringing together stakeholders including government, medical professionals, NGOs, health workers.
Sasakawa also expressed his thanks to the Novartis Foundation, which has been donating the drugs required for the Multi Drug Therapy regimen (MDT) globally since 2000. The former director general Hiroshi Nakajima awarded the WHO Health-for-All gold medal to The Nippon Foundation for its securing the drugs needed for MDT, which the foundation provided for five years from 1995. The medal was also awarded to Fidel Castro and Hillary Rodham Clinton at that time.