TOKYO, Jan. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- Twelve world leaders, including five Nobel Peace Prize laureates, will issue a "Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination Against People Affected by Leprosy." The appeal will be delivered at India Habitat Centre, New Delhi on January 29, World Leprosy Day, at a ceremony attended by ex-Indian president R. Venkataraman and Yohei Sasakawa, chairman of The Nippon Foundation. Sasakawa has worked to eliminate leprosy for 30 years. In this campaign against discrimination, however, he feels that one voice is insufficient, and has asked several friends for aid. Endorsing members: Oscar Arias (ex-Costa Rican president, Nobel laureate), Jimmy Carter (ex-US president, Nobel laureate), the Dalai Lama (Nobel laureate), El Hassan bin Talal (Jordanian prince), Vaclav Havel (ex-Czech president), Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva (Brazilian president), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigerian president), Mary Robinson (ex-Irish president, former UN high commissioner for human rights), Yohei Sasakawa (Nippon Foundation chairman), Desmond Tutu (Cape Town archbishop emeritus, Nobel laureate), R. Venkataraman (ex-Indian president), and Elie Wiesel (Nobel laureate). The appeal aims 1) to highlight the social plight of people affected by leprosy, and 2) to eliminate the imposed horror under which they live their entire lives. Leprosy is a curable, slightly contagious skin disease. Treatment is free in every country of the world. Since the introduction of multi-drug therapy (MDT) in the early 1980s, more than 14 million people have been cured. If caught early, there is no risk of disfigurement. However, social attitudes continue to destroy lives, forcing even cured persons into lifelong isolation. The result is a vicious cycle; people who contract leprosy hide the disease until disfigurement appears. Disfigurement reinforces social stigma. With MDT, 113 nations have eliminated leprosy as a public health problem. The number of endemic countries has fallen to nine. However, true elimination includes both the disease and the social problems surrounding it. Entire societies must be reached. Thus, this appeal is being sent out in three directions: the UN, urging it to issue guidelines for governments in constructing leprosy-related policy; governments, to urgently act to improve the situation; and societies, to change their perceptions and thus improve the lives of those who have had leprosy. Journalists wishing to attend the ceremony should contact Professor Ujjwal K. Chowdhury, New Delhi at +91-93733-11239 or +91-11-2278-3532.
SOURCE The Nippon Foundation