Leprosy photo exhibition aims to throw light on human rights violations

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60% of new leprosy cases reported every year are from India:Nippon Foundation

New Delhi-20th April 2018: 90 pictures of cured leprosy patients are on display at the India International Centre in Delhi, in an exhibition that will last 10 days.

Photographer Natsuko Tominaga of The Nippon Foundation, has captured soul-stirring pictures of leprosy cured patients and framed select pictures for this exhibition.

50 of the pictures are Indian leprosy cured patients, and 40 pictures are  from other countries.

In more than a decade of working as the Nippon Foundation’s official photographer, Natsuko has visited individuals and communities of people affected by leprosy in over 50 countries, accompanying Chairman Yohei Sasakawa on his mission as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.

Japanese philanthropist Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of The Nippon Foundation, who inaugurated the exhibition, along side Kenji Hiramatsu (Hon. Ambassador of Japan in India), the WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination since 2001 said, “  Over the last 12 years, I have worked with several groups of people, all over the world to remove stigma against leprosy. Leprosy has long been misunderstood and has deep-rooted misconceptions. Families continue to suffer discrimination and begin to lose hope. They believe that this discrimination is to be endured. This has to change.”

WHO data reveals that in 2016, a total of 2,14,783 cases of leprosy were reported worldwide. There were 18000 child cases and 12437 cases who were already suffering from serious disabilities at the time of diagnosis. 1,35,485 cases were from India, amounting to about 60% of the newly reported cases.

Since 2005, it is estimated that the public healthcare system in India has treated 1.3 lac patients per year. It is a bacterial disease, and hence difficult to contain. Leprosy is fully curable if promptly detected-and properly treated, and the prevalence can be brought down to negligible levels as has been done in many developed countries. The real problem with leprosy is  intentional exclusion & discrimination,” says Dr Vineeta Shanker of the Sasakawa India Leprosy Foundation.

According to sources, it is estimated that like the 1.3 lac patients that are being treated, an equal number are going undetected and therefore un-treated as well. It would be safe to say that at least 20 lac people in India are currently untreated for leprosy, since 2005. Depending on the extent of the disease, treatment options stretch from 6 months to 2 years.

The stigma against leprosy is a human rights violation,” says photographer Natsuko Tominaga. “Over the last 16 years, I have visited many individuals affected by leprosy. It saddens me to see the level of discrimination they face and realise how many members of the general public are not aware that leprosy is a curable disease.  The aim of this exhibition is to show the impact of  leprosy on individuals and their families and raise awareness that leprosy is curable and that there is life after leprosy.”

Actor R Madhavan also added his endorsement to the exhibition. “Medically, leprosy is a curable disease. Emotionally, it plunders every last ounce of dignity you have – by making you feel rejected and unwanted. I congratulate the WHO and Nippon Foundation for this photo-exhibition of leprosy survivors, heroes who have a message to give- leprosy is just another curable disease,” he said.

The larger objective of the exhibition, which is being held in collaboration with the India International Centre, Embassy of Japan and Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation, is to empower people affected by leprosy and alter perceptions in society. “There is life after leprosy,” added Natsuko.

Nippon Foundation data estimates that there are 22 Leprosy-endemic countries where the prevalence rate of Leprosy is more than 1000 cases/year. These include  Angola, Bangladesh, Brazil, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Micronesia (Federated States of), India, Indonesia, Kiribati, Madagascar, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Tanzania. About 200,000 new cases of Leprosy are detected each year, worldwide and there are still several active Leprosy colonies in the world, where people do not have access to basic facilities and continue to be seen as outcasts.

About the organisers

The Nippon Foundation is a Japanese grant-making foundation that has been working for a world without leprosy for more than 40 years. Its chairman, Yohei Sasakawa, serves as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination and as Japanese Government Goodwill Ambassador for the Human Rights of Persons Affected by Leprosy.

Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation was established in 2006 and works for the socio-economic empowerment and mainstreaming of persons affected by leprosy and their families through educational scholarships and livelihood initiatives.

CONTEXT

Leprosy is one of the world’s oldest diseases. Although completely curable today, the age-old stigma attached to leprosy continues to have an impact on people’s lives. India accounts for over 60 percent of annual new cases of leprosy and is home to around 800 self-settled leprosy colonies. This exhibition introduces residents of four such colonies and looks at how the experience of leprosy has affected them and their families. For some, leprosy is just a disease; for others it has had life-changing consequences that have left them bemoaning their fate. The exhibition, which also features photos from 40 more countries, invites viewers to see persons affected by leprosy as individuals no different from themselves, and consider why discrimination and prejudice persist in society.  

Date – 20th April – 1st May 2018 (all days including weekends)

Time – 11am – 7pm

Venue – The Art Gallery, India International Center, Kamaladevi Complex, 40 Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi

Entry is free.