Sixty-Fifth Session of the WHA Highlights Progress in NTD Control, Adopts New Resolution on Schistosomiasis Elimination

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) were on the agenda this week at the Sixty-fifth session of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, Switzerland.

A major milestone was reached when the WHA today approved a new resolution on elimination of schistosomiasis.

Schistosomiasis, also known as “snail fever”, is a disease caused by parasitic worms carried by fresh water snails. It is found predominantly in tropical and sub-tropical climates, and infects 207 million people in 74 countries worldwide. Schistosomiasis ranks second only to malaria as the most common parasitic disease.

This new resolution urges Member States to: ensure access to essential drugs against schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminth infection, mobilize resources in order to sustain activities for control of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis, promote access to safe water, sanitation and health education, mobilize resources in order to sustain activities for control of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis, and include schistosomiasis control measures into other disease control programs and health systems.

While reinforcing past resolutions, this resolution also marks a new development in efforts to combat schistosomiasis because it sets the stage for changing the goal from control to elimination.  The resolution calls for the Director-General and the WHO to prepare guidance for reaching elimination and to develop processes to ascertain and certify when transmission has been interrupted and the diseases has been eliminated.

Programs against schistosomiasis have been very successful and many countries are ready to make the request for certifying elimination.  In passing this resolution, the WHA is ensuring that support is available for other countries to do the same.  Iran, Japan, Jordan, Mauritius, Morocco, Tunisia, parts of China and some Caribbean countries and territories are all ready to certify for elimination.   While much of the world is still working towards controlling schistosomiasis, these places are demonstrating that, ultimately, elimination of this debilitating disease is possible!

At the assembly, NTDs were also brought to the spotlight by Secretary of Health Surveillance, Jarbas Barbosa and Professor Therese N’Dri-Yoman, President of the Sixty-fifth World Health Assembly.

Barbosa spoke at the conference about the efforts that the Brazilian government has adopted for the elimination of NTDs and their view of NTD control as a key part of poverty alleviation.   He talked about Brazil Without Poverty, an initiative of the Brazilian Federal Government to eliminate extreme poverty in the country, which also incorporates a plan for NTDs. “We believe this integration promotes a synergistic opportunity to reach the poorest groups in our country,” Barbosa said.  He also mentioned that Brazil is close to achieving the elimination of two neglected diseases: lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis.

In addition, at a lunch-time technical briefing on May 21, delegates discussed the relationship between NTDs and poverty.  Professor N’Dri-Yoman described the movement to control and eliminate NTDs as an “unprecedented force” that now exists among the global health community. A number of other speakers emphasized the importance of collaboration as vital to ensuring continued progress.

Click here to learn more about NTDs.

Click here to learn about all previous WHA Resolutions on Neglected Tropical Diseases.

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