Colombo [Sri Lanka], Sept. 7 : Health ministers of World Health Organisaton (WHO) South-East Asia Region today reaffirmed their commitment to achieve time-bound targets to control, eliminate and eradicate neglected tropical diseases, which continue to burden marginalized populations.
"Countries in the Region have made commendable progress in tackling neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) in recent years.
India has been formally recognized as being yaws-free while elimination of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem has been acknowledged in Maldives and Sri Lanka.
But efforts must be scaled-up against NTDs if we are to meet our targets," Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of WHO South-East Asia Region said. At least one NTD is endemic in each Member country of the WHO South-East Asia Region, while the Region bears the second highest burden of these debilitating infections in the world.
The NTDs have targeted for elimination in the South-East Asia Region by 2020 include lymphatic filariasis, yaws, leprosy and schistosomiasis, while visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar, is targeted for elimination by 2017.
"Like any other disease elimination or eradication programme, as we move towards the last mile of elimination, new issues and challenges are emerging that need to be carefully addressed to keep the elimination process on track.
Key to achieving our goals is maintaining political commitment and resource allocation, strengthening surveillance, empowering and involving communities in elimination efforts, and maintaining a targeted approach," Dr.
Khetrapal Singh said at the 69th Regional Committee meeting of WHO South-East Asia Region here. The regional director expressed WHO's ongoing support to countries striving to lift the NTD burden, pledging the organisation's technical expertise in identifying barriers and finding innovative solutions, facilitating cross-border cooperation, and working with partners to support countries' efforts.
She also reiterated that NTD control, elimination and eradication efforts are an important part of realizing the Sustainable Development Goal of leaving no one behind and attaining universal health coverage, saying that it was only by extending services to marginalized populations that countries could achieve elimination targets.
The Regional Committee is WHO South-East Asia Region's highest decision-making body, and includes health ministers and senior health ministry officials of the 11 member countries of the Region - Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.