Celebrating Progress and Looking Ahead to New Milestones in Asia and the Pacific

By Anupama Tantri

Countries in the Pacific and across Asia were the first to usher in 2013. The start of the New Year presents a unique opportunity to look back on the milestones achieved across the region in 2012 and to look forward to accelerated efforts and new achievements in NTD control and elimination in 2013.

Revelers count down to 2013 near the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, where thousands gathered for the citys first public countdown to the New Year. AFP/AFP/Getty Images.

One of the major milestones of 2012 was the release of the “WHO roadmap for achieving the NTD 2020 control and elimination goals. These plans also present an ambitious, accelerated path forward for the countries in Asia and the Pacific, including achievement of the following targets by 2016:

  • Elimination of lymphatic filariasis in nineteen countries
  • Elimination of schistosomiasis in four countries
  • Elimination of trachoma in five countries

The WHO Regional Committee for the Western Pacific also endorsed and passed a eliminate kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis), and these will help accelerate efforts in the coming year.

Looking Forward to 2013

In 2013, more than a dozen countries in the region will make tremendous strides in reaching the 2016 target for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis. These countries, including Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vanuatu and Vietnam, have stopped mass drug administration and are currently undergoing surveillance. They will now focus on assessing interruption of transmission of lymphatic filariasis at the national level, the next major step in the process of eliminating this debilitating disease.

Countries in the region will also strengthen efforts to scale up deworming against soil-transmitted helminths among children and women of reproductive age. Several countries, such as Cambodia, Kiribati and Myanmar, have demonstrated that with strong commitment and a small amount of resources, global targets for school age children can be reached and sustained.

Working Together in the New Year

While there are many milestones to work towards this year, there are also many challenges facing the region. India and Indonesia account for more than 40 percent of the world’s population in need of preventive chemotherapy against at least one NTD. Together with Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Philippines and China, these six countries make up 50 percent of the world’s population in need of preventive chemotherapy.

Endemic country governments cannot meet national, regional and global NTD goals alone.  The recently published document, “Addressing Diseases of Poverty: An Initiative to Reduce the Unacceptable Burden of NTDs in the Asia Pacific,” underscores the importance of collaboration and the contributions of a variety of stakeholders and partners. Developed in partnership with the WHO, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Global Network, the publication provides an estimate of the resources required to achieve regional targets and what has already been committed by country governments and donors. Already, there is significant government ownership and donor commitment accounting for nearly 50 percent of the total budget to control and eliminate NTDs in the region.  As these countries approach control and elimination targets, continued leadership and enhanced commitment of resources and expertise are essential.

Working together at the start of this New Year, we can ensure continued progress and achieve new milestones worth celebrating by the end of 2013.

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