The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the Lao People’s Democratic Republic has eliminated lymphatic filariasis, a painful and disabling neglected tropical disease, as a public health problem. This landmark achievement exemplifies the nation’s commitment to health, and the culmination of decades-long dedicated efforts by the Lao government, health-care workers, communities, and national and international partners. This is the second neglected tropical disease (NTD) that the country has eliminated following the elimination of trachoma as a public health problem in 2017.
“I would like to congratulate the Lao People’s Democratic Republic for being verified for the elimination of the neglected tropical disease of lymphatic filariasis as a public health problem,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “The result is a testament to Lao PDR’s dedication to and investment in protecting and promoting its people’s health.” He presented a plaque and certificate to Lao Minister of Health His Excellency Dr Bounfeng Phoummalaysith in recognition of the achievement during the seventy-fourth session of the Regional Committee for the Western Pacific this week in Manila, Philippines
“Our country’s achievement has been made possible through years of collective efforts by dedicated health workers together with support from WHO and partners, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Asian Development Bank, the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, Family Health International (FHI 360) and RTI International,” says Dr Bounfeng Phoummalaysith. “Lymphatic filariasis will never regain a foothold in our country. We will continue to maintain our efforts to prevent and control the disease through surveillance and respond quickly to any cases.”
Lao PDR joins 12 other countries and areas in the Western Pacific Region that have achieved this milestone since 2000, including Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Niue, the Marshall Islands, Palau, the Republic of Korea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Viet Nam, and Wallis and Futuna.
Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, Acting WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific says: “The success story of eliminating lymphatic filariasis in Lao PDR is a testament to the power of collective actions between the Government, partners, communities and health-care workers to deliver public health results. This achievement reminds us that we can overcome even the most daunting health challenges with determination, commitment and collaboration.”
A major national event will be held in the Lao province of Attapeu on 27 October to mark the accomplishment.
Lymphatic filariasis, commonly known as elephantiasis, is a parasitic disease spread by mosquitoes that causes the enlargement of body parts, often resulting in pain, severe disability, stigma and associated economic hardship.
To eliminate the disease, which by 2002 was endemic in only one southern Lao province (Attapeu), local health authorities and partners gave preventive medication to at-risk communities from 2012 to 2017. Elimination efforts also benefited from activities to reduce malaria and dengue, including distribution of long-lasting insecticide-treated nets and health education campaigns. Partners and donors have supported activities including medication administration, monitoring visits and a survey to assess the disease’s transmission.
16 October 2023 (WHO)
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