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The World Health Organization has appointed Nippon Foundation President Yohei Sasakawa as special ambassador for its fight against Hansen’s disease, officials of the foundation said Thursday.

In 1991, WHO member states adopted a resolution to reduce the number of those infected to less than one in 10,000 people in each country and implemented some measures. A total of 120 countries were targeted at the time.

Partly thanks to the WHO drive, the number of countries that have more than one Hansen’s disease patient per 10,000 has declined to six, including India and Brazil.

Sasakawa has been chosen as the special ambassador of the Global Alliance for the Elimination of Hansen’s Disease, which was created by the world organization in 1999.

The foundation has contributed some 14.5 billion yen to WHO to help buy medication for the infection, and has pledged to make an additional 2.9 billion yen in financial assistance by 2005, according to the foundation officials.

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