WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy visits Tajikistan

WHO/Tahmina Alimamedova

Mr Yohei Sasakawa, WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and the Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, visited Tajikistan during July 8-11, 2013, to familiarize himself with the leprosy situation in the Republic.

On the first day of his mission Mr Sasakawa met with Dr Pavel Ursu, WHO Representative/Head of WHO Country office. They discussed the current leprosy situation in Tajikistan and the latest data, including progress in this area and more generally with communicable diseases.

The group then met the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Rakhmonov S. and discussion focused particularly on the situation in areas bordering Afghanistan. Mr Sasakawa brought to the attention of the Deputy Minister the resolution passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council of 2008 which aimed to challenge the discrimination and stigma experienced by people suffering from Leprosy.

Promoting prevention

Mr Sasakawa emphasized the fact that since Leprosy is curable, prevention can be achieved through increased awareness among the general public. During the meeting the proposal for a leprosy hospital located in the border district of Tajikistan, serving patients from Afghanistan was discussed. It was agreed to highlight the issue during the forthcoming visit to Tajikistan of Afghanistan’s Minister of Public Health. The Deputy Minister proposed to provide support for the national team of dermatologists to make an in depth assessment of the leprosy situation along the Tajik-Afghan border to confirm the exact circumstances on both sides.

The importance of early diagnosis

Early diagnosis of leprosy is a key issue for leprologists all over the world and the Republic of Tajikistan is no exception. While the country has never had widespread leprosy, it is endemic in Khorog and some districts of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO) and the Vanchsky, Ishkashimsky and Shugnansky regions. According to the Republican Skin and Venereal Diseases Clinical Center, Gornyi Badakhshan in the GBAO oblast is the most endemic region of the world for leprosy. The incidence rate is higher than the European average of 2.8 times, especially in Vanj, Ishkoshim and Shugnon areas.

During the mission, Mr Yohei Sasakawa and all his team members also paid a visit to the leprosy hospital in Gissar district and made a presentation on the current, world wide leprosy situation to assembled dermatologists.