The Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa to Receive Human Rights Award for Contribution to Elimination of Leprosy and Related Discrimination

Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, has been named by the International Council of Nurses* (ICN), headquartered in Geneva, as the recipient of the ICN’s Health and Human Rights Award. The award is being given in recognition of Mr. Sasakawa’s outstanding contribution to the fight against leprosy and his exemplary achievements in the field of health and human rights. Dr. Frances Hughes, ICN’s chief executive officer, noted, “While leprosy is a curable disease, it continues to face many misconceptions, misunderstandings and stigma. The stigma and discrimination felt by individuals can be major barriers to utilizing health services for prevention, diagnosis and treatment.”
The Health and Human Rights Award was created in 2000 to recognize people who have made a major humanitarian contribution in the field of health and human rights. The three previous recipients are Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, Stephen Lewis, former United Nations’ Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and Sadako Ogata, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
As WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination since 2001 and Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of Persons Affected by Leprosy since 2007, Mr. Sasakawa has been actively working to eliminate leprosy as a public health problem and end leprosy-related discrimination. He approached the UN Human Rights Commission in 2003 and has cooperated with the Japanese government to have the UN General Assembly pass a resolution for the “Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy and their Family Members” in 2010, and has initiated the “Global Appeal to End Stigma and Discrimination against People Affected by Leprosy,” calling for the elimination of prejudice and discrimination, every year since 2006 together with organizations including the World Medical Association and the International Bar Association, to coincide with World Leprosy Day, which is observed on the last Sunday in January. In addition to the elimination of leprosy, Mr. Sasakawa has been active in a wide range of humanitarian assistance, including improving the lives of persons with disabilities, disaster relief, and support for conflict-affected people in Myanmar.
Upon receiving news of the award, Mr. Sasakawa stated, “I am honored to receive such a distinguished award and will continue working with all of you to cure leprosy and to restore the dignity of all who suffer from discrimination.”
He also took the opportunity to pay tribute to the activities of the ICN and to the nursing profession, saying, “Nurses devote themselves to the mission of easing human suffering, both mental and physical, without bias or prejudice. The ICN not only provides medical services to those affected by leprosy and those who have recovered from it, but joins us in the struggle against discrimination and stigma, and we are greatly encouraged by their work.”
The award is to be presented at the ICN Congress 2017, to be held in Barcelona, Spain, in May 2017.

  • The ICN is an international organization comprising the nurses associations of countries around the world, and is proactively engaged in raising the social and economic status of persons engaged in nursing around the world, the development of nursing, and policymaking in the field of health and medicine at both the global and local levels.

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