Progress in stopping tropical diseases – WHO

Two developing countries have successfully become the first to tackle two pernicious tropical diseases, the World Health Organization has announced.

Bangladesh is the first country to eliminate visceral leishmaniasis while the Maldives has become the first to confirm it has stopped transmission of leprosy to children, WHO said.

WHO officials said they also accepted a claim by North Korea that it has eliminated rubella following a four-year long mass vaccination campaign.

Two other countries, Bhutan and Timor-Leste, have also been credited with eliminating rubella this year while Bangladesh has also eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem, WHO said.

Maldives’ success against leprosy has been achieved over a four year period with “high political will and community motivation” together with the reduction of stigma and discrimination, WHO said.

Bangladesh has been close to eliminating visceral leishmaniasis since 2017 when it had reduced it to one case per 10,000 people, WHO said. The country has maintained progress “despite” pandemic disruptions, the agency said.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Neglected tropical diseases like lymphatic filariasis, visceral leishmaniasis and leprosy, along with the threat to children and young people posed by rubella, require continued national leadership, commitment and collaborative action by countries and health partners worldwide.

“These achievements will positively impact the lives of the most vulnerable populations now and in the future.”

WHO regional Director Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh said: “These are tremendous achievements, an outcome of a deeply held strategic vision and culture that together, over the past decade and beyond, we have created. A vision and culture that strives to advance the health and well-being not of some, or even many people, but of all people, everywhere.”


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