The World Health Organization (WHO) has made an historic announcement – the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has effectively eliminated lymphatic filariasis as a public health concern. This monumental achievement is a testament to the nation’s unwavering dedication to healthcare, the culmination of decades of relentless work by the Lao government, healthcare professionals, communities, and national as well as international collaborators. Remarkably, this marks the second time the country has eradicated a neglected tropical disease (NTD), having previously eliminated trachoma as a public health issue in 2017.
Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall, Director of the WHO Global NTD Programme, expressed, “The elimination of lymphatic filariasis in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic is an outstanding accomplishment, one that sets an example for many countries. This is a victory not just for Lao people, but for the world. Together, we are moving closer to a world free of NTDs.”
Lymphatic filariasis, commonly referred to as elephantiasis, is a devastating parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes. This ailment has plagued millions worldwide for centuries, causing pain, severe disability, and societal stigmatization. Today’s announcement is a testament to global progress in the battle against NTDs and instills hope for numerous other nations grappling with lymphatic filariasis.
Dr. Jonathan King, Team Lead of Community and Primary Care-Based Interventions at WHO/NTD, noted, “While celebrating this milestone, it is vital to remember that vigilance must be maintained to prevent re-emergence. An essential package of care must also remain available for those individuals already affected by the disease. Continued surveillance, maintaining the capacity to detect and respond to any new infections is paramount.”
WHO officially documented this remarkable achievement in the latest Weekly Epidemiological Record. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic now joins 18 other nations that meet the same criteria. Over the last 15 years, the global population requiring interventions to eliminate lymphatic filariasis has declined by 53%, thanks to the coordinated efforts of countries and partners participating in the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, as recognized by the WHO.
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