In the South-East Asia Region, the World Health Organization has been focusing on eradicating neglected tropical diseases (NDTs). Now, it has come little closer to its goal as Maldives and Sri Lanka successfully eliminates one of the crippling illness, lymphatic filariasis.
"The achievement by Maldives and Sri Lanka demonstrates the resolve of these countries and the Region as a whole to eliminate all neglected tropical diseases, which have no reason to continue and mar the lives of people," said Dr. Poonam Khretrapal Singh, Regional Director, WHO South-East Asia Region.
Lymphatic filariasis (LF), commonly known as elephantiasis is believed to have been endemic in Maldives since the 12th and 13th century and is traced back to much earlier in Sri Lanka.
‘Maldives and Sri Lanka have eliminated one of the neglected tropical diseases, lymphatic filariasis, affecting hundreds of lives for decades.’
The disease is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. The infection is acquired during childhood and as it progresses, it may lead to permanent disability. Financial losses, mental problems and poverty are the other effects of this neglected disease.
WHO emphasized lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem and developed key strategies to eliminate the disease by 2020. One of the strategies was to stop the spread of the infection and other was to increase disease management and disability prevention measures.
Now, the effective elimination of the disease in Maldives and Sri Lanka was due to intensified mosquito control efforts; effective treatment of the infected population, strengthening of surveillance and close monitoring of prevention and control measure.
"Maldives is committed to enhancing health and wellbeing of its population. Achieving the goal of eliminating lymphatic filariasis, as a public health problem, has been possible with tireless efforts of hundreds of health workers across the island nation," said Ms. Iruthisham Adam, Minister of Health, Maldives.
"Lymphatic filariasis elimination as a public health problem in Sri Lanka is a major public health success which has been possible with our strong commitment, dedication of our health workforce and active participation and support of the community," said Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Minister of Health, Sri Lanka.