UN revives efforts to eliminate yaws – once forgotten disease that is making comeback
The United Nations health agency is reviving efforts to eliminate yaws, a nearly forgotten disease that eats away at the skin, cartilage and bones of its victims, mostly children, which is making a comeback after a global control programme almost eradicated it over 40 years ago.
“The persistence of yaws in the 21st century is unacceptable,” UN World Health Organization (WHO) Director of Neglected Tropical Diseases Lorenzo Savioli said of the disease which is re-emerging in poor, rural and marginalized populations of Africa, Asia and South America.
“There is a cost-effective approach to treating this disease,” he added, noting that the single dose of long-acting penicillin costs as little as $0.32.
Experts believe that yaws can be eliminated and eventually eradicated because humans are the only reservoir of infection.
New cases appear every year. This week, world experts including officials from the health ministries of selected endemic countries – Indonesia, Ghana and the Republic of Congo – are holding informal talks to develop a new global strategy for combating it.
The overall aim is to minimize suffering and the socio-economic impact the disease has on affected populations. A recent control programme in India provides optimism that elimination can be achieved in other countries with persistent efforts and political commitment. In the south-east Asia region, the aim is to eradicate yaws by 2012.
This week’s talks are examining whether elimination is now possible in other regions of the world, signalling a possible revival of the 1950s global yaws programme as well as the development of a current global strategy to generate much-needed support at global, regional and country levels to eradicate it once and for all.
The officials are studying a three-fold strategy: detecting and treating all yaws cases and their contacts; interrupting transmission; and preventing disability.