Health ministers in south-east Asia today reaffirmed their commitment to achieve the target of controlling, eliminating and eradicating neglected tropical diseases (NTDS), with the United Nations health agency voicing its support for their efforts.
“Countries in the region have made commendable progress in tackling neglected tropical diseases in recent years… But efforts must be scaled-up against NTDs if we are to meet our targets,” the UN World Health Organization’s (WHO) Regional Director for the South-East Asia Region, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said in a WHO news release.
“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,” she added. “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.”
WHO’s Regional Committee for South-East Asia Region is made up of 11 local member countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste – and had been holding its 69th regional meeting in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo today. Each country has at least one endemic NTD.
According to the news release, the NTDs targeted for elimination in the region by 2020 include lymphatic filariasis, yaws, leprosy and schistosomiasis, while visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar), is targeted for elimination by 2017.
In her remarks at the gathering, Dr. Khetrapal Singh expressed WHO’s ongoing support to the countries, pledged the Organization’s technical expertise in identifying barriers and finding innovative solutions, facilitating cross-border cooperation, and to work with partners to support countries’ efforts.
The WHO official also stressed that the control, elimination and eradication of NTDs are an important part of realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and attaining universal health coverage. She underscored that it was only by extending services to marginalized populations that countries could achieve elimination targets.