Health Ministers Pledge to Achieve Leprosy-Free World at International Leprosy Summit; The Nippon Foundation Commits USD $20 Million to the Fight

TOKYO, July 24, 2013 /CNW/ - The International Leprosy Summit, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and The Nippon Foundation of Tokyo, opened in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 24 with the participation of health ministers and other representatives from 17 nations reporting more than 1,000 new cases of leprosy annually. Concerned by the fact that new cases continue to occur, the participants issued on July 24 a Bangkok declaration calling for further efforts to overcome the remaining challenges. Included in the declaration is the ambitious aim of reducing the occurrence of new cases of the disease with visible disability to less than one case per million people by 2020.

Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa, who has worked for the elimination of leprosy for more than 40 years, announced in the opening plenary session that his foundation would donate USD $20 million over the next five years toward the fight against the disease, and urged governments concerned to "reaffirm your strong determination to achieve a leprosy-free world."

The fight against leprosy, one of the most difficult challenges in the history of public health, has made great strides since multidrug therapy (MDT) was introduced in the 1980s. During the past two decades, approximately 16 million patients have been cured. At present, Brazil is the only nation that has yet to pass the milestone set by the WHO in 1991 of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem, or reducing the prevalence rate of leprosy to less than one case per 10,000 people at the national level.

However, despite significant progress, leprosy continues to be a concern in a number of countries where endemic pockets of the disease remain and new case detection rates have remained static or are showing signs of increasing. Also, there is persistent social discrimination against people affected by leprosy. Touching on these points, Mr. Sasakawa, who is also WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, voiced a sense of alarm and warned against complacency.

The summit will take place over three days, during which participants will review the current leprosy situation, identify the challenges facing endemic countries and express their resolve to tackle them.

SOURCE: The Nippon Foundation

For further information:

Natsuko Tominaga
Public Relations Department
The Nippon Foundation
Tel: +81-3-6229-5131
e-mail: pr@ps.nippon-foundation.or.jp

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