In Geneva for the 75th World Health Assembly (WHA75) Mr. Marcus Samo, Secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services, used the opportunity to meet on the conference sidelines with Mr. Yohei Sasakawa, the Chairman of the Sasakawa Health Foundation.
The meeting is notable as Mr. Sasakawa is well known for his global fight against leprosy and has remained highly committed to supporting countries in their fight against eradicating the disease. Mr. Sasakawa, who was earlier presented the WHO Director-General’s Award for Global Health in recognition of his contributions to advancing global health, is the World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, and also Japan’s Ambassador for Human Rights of People Affected by Leprosy. Mr. Sasakawa’s philanthropic activities have in the past enabled and contributed to the enhancement of medical knowledge in the FSM through dispatching of Japanese healthcare personnel which also encouraged greater mutual understanding between Japan and Micronesia.
The FSM was also a recipient of a small boat donated by the Foundation to assist the FSM in its maritime surveillance activities and capacity building.
In the meeting with the Secretary, Mr. Sasakawa recalled his fond memories of visiting the State of Pohnpei and an appearance with the President of the FSM on a local TV program to encourage efforts by the FSM Government against leprosy and the discrimination it caused. With an intensified interest to eliminating this world health scourge, Mr. Sasakawa encouraged Secretary Samo for his continued leadership and support to eliminating leprosy in the FSM. A frequent visitor to leprosy-endemic countries, Mr. Sasakawa expressed his commitment to this fight and indicated his interest to visit the FSM soon as the COVID pandemic subsides. Mr. Sasakawa is no stranger to FSM leaders as he had on previous occasions met the FSM Presidents including the current President H.E. David W. Panuelo at the last Pacific Island summit in Japan.
Secretary Samo, for his part, expressed profound appreciation and gratitude on behalf of President Panuelo and the FSM Government to Mr. Sasakawa for his relentless efforts in ensuring that those affected by leprosy are not overlooked and that the world is rid of leprosy. Secretary Samo recalled Mr. Sasakawa’s visit at the time to the FSM noting that he was a new employee then of the Government. He described the FSM’s sense of pride to cooperate and strengthen the leprosy program and the historical amicable relationship between the the FSM and Japan – a sentiment shared by Mr. Sasakawa who said that he continues to encourage and urge the Government of Japan to maintain and further strengthen the relationship.
According to Secretary Samo, the COVID pandemic has prompted another need of the FSM for a medical vessel that would be utilized for medical services to reach individuals and communities in hard-to-reach locations throughout the FSM. He also informed that the FSM was already preparing to receive Mr. Sasakawa but the COVID pandemic disrupted the visit. He encouraged Mr. Sasakawa to make plans to visit as soon as conditions allow.