Seven neglected tropical diseases set for elimination

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HANOI, 26 September 2012—The World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a road map to help countries in the Western Pacific Region banish neglected tropical diseases to the pages of history.

Dr Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, presented to the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific, WHO's regional governing body, the draft Regional Action Plan for Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Western Pacific (2012–2016).

"Successful implementation of the action plan will bring closer the day when we finish the job of eliminating neglected tropical diseases in the Western Pacific," Dr Shin said.

The regional action plan was endorsed by the Regional Committee, composed of the Region's 37 countries and areas. The focus of the five-year plan will be seven key diseases: leprosy, lymphatic filariasis, foodborne trematodiases, schistosomiasis, soil-transmitted helminthiases, trachoma and yaws.

"Tropical diseases are diseases of poverty and neglect," Dr Shin said. "They afflict the most vulnerable people in society in 28 countries and areas in our Region. Although they are usually not fatal, they are distressing and create lasting disability and stigma."

WHO has set 2020 as the target to eliminate the burden of some of these diseases, such as lymphatic filariasis, yaws and leprosy, through expanded interventions and intensive monitoring. An integrated approach is crucial for scaling up and sustaining access to medicines and other interventions against these neglected tropical diseases.

Limited funding for scaling up interventions has impeded progress. Success requires sustainable programme management. In addition, feasible action plans require innovative and collaborative solutions to barriers, such as reaching populations in remote and conflict-stricken areas.

Well-trained health-care staff are also imperative for success. Front-line health workers need adequate training in detecting and treating neglected tropical diseases, especially as patients with chronic diseases, such as leprosy and lymphatic filariasis, may need lifelong care.

By 2016, successful implementation of the regional action plan is expected to result in:

Lao People's Democratic Republic, the Republic of Korea and Viet Nam.

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