WHO Sasakawa Health Prize Award Ceremony

Geneva, Switzerland

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

The Sasakawa Health Prize was established in 1984 in response to the WHO’s “health for all” initiative, and to the Declaration of Alma-Ata, which affirmed primary health care as the principal strategy for achieving health for all.

As you know, this is the 60th anniversary of the WHO, and the 30th anniversary of the Alma-Ata declaration.

In defining the meaning of health, the WHO constitution states that “health” is not just the absence of disease but complete physical, mental and social well-being.

This year’s Sasakawa Prize-winner is especially concerned with the social well-being of those it serves.

As introduced earlier, MORHAN, or the Movement for the Reintegration of People Affected by Hansen’s Disease, is an NGO headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Hansen’s disease, or leprosy, is one of the world’s oldest diseases. In addition to its medical aspect, it has a social aspect–namely, the discrimination suffered by the people it affects.

For those diagnosed with leprosy, the consequences can include separation from family, loss of home and even of their own name.

They are denied their dignity and fundamental human rights.

Today, leprosy is completely curable. Nevertheless, people are still discriminated against, even after they are cured.

Because of the social stigma, it can be hard for them to return to a normal life.

It was to tackle the issue of stigma and discrimination and to lower the barriers of prejudice that MORHAN was founded in 1981 by Mr. Francisco A.V. Nunes.

Mr. Nunes, himself a person affected by leprosy, was an elementary school teacher, a poet and a songwriter.

MORHAN’s activities include a free telephone counseling service called TELEHANSEN, and nationwide leprosy awareness campaigns conducted through the media.

It relies on large numbers of volunteers to carry out its work.

Involving volunteers was the idea of Mr. Nunes, who believed that the only way to overcome prejudice and discrimination was by mobilizing volunteers who were not affected by leprosy.

He had the right idea.

Promoting social well being requires the efforts of all members of society.

But this is not easy.

Too often in life, we are concerned only for the well-being of our loved ones, and are indifferent to the plight of others.

Only when we embrace the problems faced by others, as our problem too, will “health for all” prevail.

For this to happen, we need to change our mindsets, which an organization such as MORHAN is helping us to do.

I would like to congratulate MORHAN on winning the Sasakawa Prize and I sincerely hope that this award will help it to strengthen its activities in Brazil.

Last but not least, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation for the members of the WHO selection committee for recognizing MORHAN as a worthy winner.