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Unprecedented Progress Against Neglected Tropical Diseases in the Americas

Pan American Health Organization
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April 20, 2017
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The Most Gruesome Parasites – Neglected Tropical Diseases (Kurzgesagt)

The World Health Organization reported remarkable achievements in tackling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) since 2007, with an estimated 1 billion people in 2015 alone receiving treatment.

“WHO has observed record-breaking progress towards bringing ancient scourges like sleeping sickness and elephantiasis to their knees,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan. “Over the past 10 years, millions of people have been rescued from disability and poverty, thanks to one of the most effective global partnerships in modern public health.”

The new report, Integrating Neglected Tropical Diseases in Global Health and Development, demonstrates how strong political support, generous donations of medicines, and improvements in living conditions, have led to sustained expansion of disease control programs in countries where these diseases are most prevalent. Since 2007, when a group of global partners met to agree to tackle NTDs, a variety of local and international partners have worked alongside ministries of health in endemic countries to deliver quality-assured medicines, and provide people with care and long-term management.

“The countries in our Region are close to eliminating some of the neglected tropical diseases with the help of partners and the finest technical cooperation led by PAHO and WHO, but we need more help to finish the job and rid the Americas of these tropical diseases that can be eliminated,” said Dr. Marcos Espinal, who heads Communicable Diseases and Health Analysis at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Speaking on behalf of PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne at the panel on NTD Financing, Espinal discussed country progress and commitment, partnerships and the need to nurture for success, citing examples from the Region. “People living in poverty shouldn’t have to suffer from a debilitating disease that we can prevent for pennies, he added.”

Situation in the Americas

Last year, health leaders of the member countries of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) agreed on a plan of action to eliminate eight neglected infectious diseases and to significantly reduce the burden of five others over the next six years. The plan also calls for actions to reduce the risk of reintroduction of these diseases in the post-elimination phase.

The diseases targeted for interruption of transmission or elimination by 2022 are: trachoma, Chagas disease, human rabies transmitted by dogs, leprosy, human taeniasis and cysticercosis tapeworm infections, lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and schistosomiasis. The following are targeted for prevention, control, and a reduction in the burden of disease: cystic echinococcosis (hydatidosis), fascioliasis, human plague, leishmaniasis (cutaneous and visceral), and soil-transmitted helminth infections (intestinal worms).

Neglected infectious diseases affect primarily populations living in extreme poverty and cause suffering, permanent disability, and death. In Latin America and the Caribbean, an estimated 46 million children live in areas at high risk of infection or reinfection with soil-transmitted helminths, while nearly 11 million people are at risk of blinding trachoma, and 70.2 million are at risk of Chagas disease.

More than 33,000 new cases of leprosy and over 51,000 cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis are reported in the Americas each year. In addition, 70 million people in the region are at risk of Chagas disease, 25 million suffer from schistosomiasis, and 12.6 million suffer from lymphatic filariasis.

To control and eventually eliminate these diseases in the Americas, PAHO/WHO promotes and supports strategies including the mass distribution of antiparasitics and other medicines, integrated vector control, and health education in communities.

Progress in the Americas 2009-2015

  • Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Guatemala were the first countries in the world to receive WHO certification of elimination of human onchocerciasis.

  • The number of people needing treatment for onchocerciasis in the region declined from more than 336,000 in 2009 to just over 25,000 in 2015.

  • Seventeen Central and South American countries have eliminated vector-borne transmission of Chagas disease in all or part of their national territory.

  • Almost all the countries in the Americas have eliminated leprosy as a national public health problem.

  • Fourteen countries are considered free of local malaria transmission.

  • Three countries have eliminated lymphatic filariasis and have not reported any local transmission, while three more are close to elimination.

  • In 2013, nearly 20 million children were treated for soil-transmitted helminth infections in the Region.

  • Six countries and territories in the Caribbean may have eliminated the transmission of schistosomiasis, but there are still some areas with transmission in limited foci.

Read the rest at Pan American Health Organization

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