WHO Ambassador Yōhei Sasakawa visits Bergen

WHO Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination, and chairman of The Nippon Foundation, Yōhei Sasakawa, visits Bergen to plan the 2023 Hansen anniversary.

Sasakawa Health Foundation will be the main sponsor for the 150-year anniversary of Armauer Hansen’s discovery of the leprosy bacillus. As part of the planning, Mr. Yōhei Sasakawa and collagues visited Bergen in September 2022.

The guests visited the newly refurbished University Museum, which will be the venue for the event and webcast on February 28, 2022. Director General at the University Library, Maria Carmen Torras Calvo, presented some of Armauer Hansen’s original pictures and manuscripts held in the University collections. The guests also visited Gerhard Armauer Hansen’s bust and grave, located in the botanical garden outside the University Museum.

After a lunch in the University Board room, hosted by rector Margareth Hagen and UiB-director Robert Rastad, the delegation was given a tour of the Armauer Hansen Commemorative Room in the old leprosy institution Pleiestiftelsen No. 1 (The caring institution no. 1) by Lorentz Irgens and Magnus Vollset. There, a Memorandum of Understanding between Sasakawa and the University of Bergen was signed on Armauer Hansen’s desk.

Later in the day, Bergen City Museum presented their plans for outreach events in Bergen during the anniversary. The delegation visited The Leprosy Museum – St. Jørgen Hospital – which operated as a leprosy institution for more than 500 years.

The day ended with a tour of King Håkon’s hall, where the municipality will hold a reception during the anniversary, followed by dinner at the Rosenkrantz Tower.

Day 2

On the second day of the visit, the guests were introduced to the Pandemic Centre, and how leprosy can be seen as a lesson in solving a “wicked problem”. Mr. Yōhei Sasakawa gave an intriguing lecture on the Foundation’s leprosy work, challenges in the field, and how they are to be addressed in the Global Leprosy Strategy 2021-2030 “Towards Zero Leprosy”.

Later in the day, the delegation visited the Grieg Hall, which will be the venue for the anniversary conference that is currently being planned. The delegation also visited Tor Fosse, head of Bergen International Film Festival, to discuss collaborating side-events for the anniversary.

Finally, the delegation had a short meeting with Rune Bakervik, Major of Bergen, who on behalf of the city gave the plans for the anniversary his full support.