Guatemala Launches its National Plan on NTDs – Plus Other Great News from Central America!

Photo by Olivier Asselin

Photo by Olivier Asselin

By: Mia Wise and Raquel Corona-Parra

On Friday August 30, 2013, the Ministry of Health of Guatemala launched its multi-year, integrated, national plan addressing neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) with support from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The ambitious plan targets the control and elimination of six NTDs by providing deworming medication to children in prioritized municipalities and improving access to clean water in communities affected by NTDs. Even more, Guatemala’s national NTD plan will be linked the country’s Zero Hunger Plan which tackles hunger and malnutrition in the country.

More specifically, this integrated plan will target the control and elimination of onchocerciasis, soil-transmitted helminths (STHs, or intestinal parasites), Chagas disease, leishmaniasis, trachoma, and leprosy from 2013 to 2015. The Guatemalan Minister of Health Jorge Villavicencio said the increased attention placed on these diseases is essential for reducing malnutrition and poverty in Guatemala as these diseases represent an incredible health burden on communities in the country, trapping already marginalized populations in the cycle of poverty.

Even More Good News…

Guatemala was not the only country focused on NTD treatment and control this summer.  The Council of Ministers of Health of Central America and the Dominican Republic ( regional meeting on June 27 and 28 in San José, Costa Rica. The Global Network team was happy to collaborate with COMISCA at this meeting – where they shared information on upcoming challenges and solutions in NTD treatment efforts, and global and regional policy activities.

COMISCA is a political faction of the System for Central American Integration (SICA) comprised of the Ministers and Secretariats of Health of eight Member Countries. The Council strives to ensure the right to health care services to the people of Central America and the Dominican Republic, and is influential in determining health care priorities within the region.

The Global Network was delighted that COMISCA recognized the importance of NTD control and elimination with regards to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the 2020 Sustainable Development Goals. The Ministers of Health also approved the addition of NTDs in their closing report – a result that has paved the way for NTD control and elimination action items to be included in the next COMISCA Regional Health Plan.

And More Collaboration…

The Global Network was also invited to participate at the Forum of the Health Sector in Central America and the Dominican Republic (RESSCAD), during its annual meeting held in Guatemala on July 17. RESSCAD meetings serve as another opportunity for integration among the ministers of health of the region.

During the meeting, PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne stressed that NTDs are the clearest example of preventable health inequities. She added that prioritizing these diseases, which affect the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, is a public health, political, and moral imperative. RESSCAD will now be placing a stronger emphasis on intersectoral collaboration and NTD control and will review progress made at the next meeting in 2014.

The launch of Guatemala’s national plan on NTDs and the increased attention to NTDs made by COMISCA and RESSCAD are all great news for the NTD community!

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