‘Don’t Forget Leprosy’ Banner Unfurled on Africa’s Highest MountainAt age 85, WHO Goodwill Ambassador Yohei Sasakawa successfully climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro

World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination Yohei Sasakawa (Chairman, The Nippon Foundation) climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain (5,895 meters), on February 12 and unfurled a banner reading “Don’t Forget Leprosy.”
This followed Mr. Sasakawa’s and World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s issuing of a joint statement on January 31 from WHO headquarters calling for an end to prejudice and discrimination against people affected by leprosy. From Mt. Kilimanjaro, Mr. Sasakawa also offered a prayer for victims of the earthquake that struck Japan’s Noto Peninsula on January 1.

With the development of drug therapies, leprosy is a “curable” disease, but the coronavirus pandemic has led to delays in the distribution of medicine and the discovery of new cases. With many unreported cases believed to exist in Africa, Mr. Sasakawa was determined to display the banner on the continent’s highest mountain.
Together with two physicians with expertise in mountain climbing, Mr. Sasakawa spent six days making the ascent. At age 85 and with a disability (having had a pacemaker implanted in 2012), Mr. Sasakawa may be the first person over the age of 80 with a disability to achieve this feat, and an application for a Guiness World Record is being considered.
On his achievement, Mr. Sasakawa commented, “I did this to provide inspiration to everyone around the world who is involved in eliminating leprosy. I hope this will encourage people to become even more involved going forward.”

Photo of Yohei Sasakawa holding a “Don’t Forget Leprosy” banner on Mt. Kilimanjaro
Yohei Sasakawa at Mt. Kilimanjaro’s 5,685 meter mark at 5:30 a.m. on February 12 (local time)

Mr. Sasakawa made his ascent taking the Marangu Route. Among the various routes, this route has many difficult sections, and according to a local tour company the success rate of climbers reaching the summit via this route is only roughly 50%.


Public Relations Team
The Nippon Foundation

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