School for children with Hansen's Disease in Jeevodaya, India School for children with Hansen's Disease in Jeevodaya, India 

Vatican to co-host “Leave No One Behind” symposium on Hansen's Disease

The Vatican will co-host a two-day symposium from 23-24 January bringing together health and human rights experts to focus on better serving those with leprosy and Neglected Tropical Diseases so no one may be left behind in our societies.

By Thaddeus Jones

The Vatican will host a two-day symposium focusing on how to achieve the goal of "zero leprosy" in our world and establish societies where no one is left behind due to Hansen's Disease and other NTDs (Neglected Tropical Diseases).

Organizers of the 23-24 January meeting include the French Raoul Follereau Fondation, the Italian Association Amici di Raoul Follereau and Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative, in collaboration with the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development. They will co-host the International Symposium at the Vatican that has as its theme, “Leave No One Behind,” with meetings taking place at the Augustinianum Patristics Institute.

Top experts in the field will be participating, bringing together health and human rights experts, NGOs, religious organizations, persons affected by Hansen’s disease (commonly known as leprosy) and other NTDs. Among the international speakers are: Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Mr. Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Alice Cruz, UN Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, as well as representatives of the hosting organizations, including Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and chairman of The Nippon Foundation.

Leprosy is curable with multidrug therapy, but left untreated can result in permanent disability. An estimated 3 to 4 million people are thought to be living with some form of disability as a result of leprosy. Many myths and misunderstandings surround the disease, and even though it is curable, those recovered and even their family members can face discrimination that limtis their opportunities for education, employment and full participation in society.

The symposium marks a follow-up to a similar International Symposium held in 2016 titled. In the years leading up to the latest symposium, the Covid pandemic weighed heavily on leprosy services, disrupting monitoring and assuring patients receive proper treatment and disability care. The latest symposium will look at how to recover from these setbacks by assuring people the care they need and showcasing the latest best practices to address their needs, with a special focus on the role religious organizations are playing.

The symposium will also feature a launch ceremony for the "Global Appeal 2023 to End Stigma and Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy." The annual appeal focuses on leprosy and address the discrimination that can result in order to make more inclusive societies. This year’s Appeal is being endorsed by the organizers and participants of the symposium and will be read out by Miss World Brazil 2022, Leticia Frota, who has been a great promoter in the fight against Hansen’s disease in her country.

Participation in the symposium as a guest, physically or virtually, is possible by visiting the conference website.


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18 January 2023, 18:39